Acknowledging the systemic racism that hurts our kids and families is just the first step; injustice also demands action. Last week Coalition staff took 4-hours, an intentional block of time, to steward Diversity and Inclusion either personally or collectively with an activity of their choice.
In a time of pain, anger, confusion, grief, and thirst for change, the Coalition team showed up for each other as family. It was amazing to see everyone come together to listen, challenge, encourage, and empower each other. We are together in this journey to fight historical, structural racism, and yet, action looks different for each one of us.
We were so inspired by the staff’s individual and collective action, and we want to share it with you! Here is a compilation of some of their experiences. The staff shared how they spent this time and a quote or reflection that was meaningful for them.
Friday I participated in the Ladue protest with my colleagues, after doing lunch at the office.
“Protesting is never a disturbance of peace. Corruption, injustice, war, and intimidation are disturbances of peace.” Bryant H. McGill. This is my purpose for participating in peaceful protesting. This experience was so inspiring and impactful. All races were standing in solidarity, marching so that all races can be treated equally. This isn’t just about race, but about humanity.
I am a foster parent and all last week I was receiving some pretty devastating news regarding my kids’ case. Between processing that information, all of our staff talks, talks I was having with family and friends about the racism in our country, and a medical emergency in my immediate family – by Friday I felt completely spent. I wanted to continue the conversations with my coworkers and friends, I wanted to read books or listen to podcasts – but it was like my brain turned off. So I used Friday afternoon to fill my cup. I spent quality fun time with my kids, I spent time with my coworkers at our social distance BBQ, and had an extra meeting with my supervisor to process the week. I know myself and know that I have to take time out to process my feelings so that I can come back stronger and ready to engage, instead of detached and emotionless.
I spent time filling my cup so that I can continue to pour out to others, learn from them, and change in the ways I need to in order to be a part of creating a safe world for people of color.
I signed up to volunteer or work in policy research and operations in Missouri with the vision of the Action Center. Their goal is to register voters, write letters, and make phone calls to get people to the polls on Election Day.
“A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.” Barack Obama
I watched the documentary 13th and started reading the book Waking Up White. It has been eye opening to learn more about the compounded impacts of racism over generations.
On Friday afternoon I sat down with a piece of paper, a few brushes and a palette of watercolors to paint a portrait of George Floyd. The next morning my wife, our two-year-old daughter and I met my sister and walked to the site where George Floyd was murdered.
I placed my painting next to the flowers and cardboard protest signs that ripple outwards from the storefront on 38th street in South Minneapolis where George Floyd drew his last breath.
Artists have a responsibility to bear witness. To help color in the blurry outlines of history. Because I have a two-year-old daughter to keep safe, and little recourse if my wife or I got sick with COVID-19, I can’t be where I want to be: on the streets of my community marching shoulder to shoulder with those seeking justice and reform. But I hope that by donating a watercolor in his memory, by sitting with the image of George Floyd and painting his face layer by layer, that I added to the collage of images and chorus of voices demanding change.
Early Friday I spent time with my work family before participating in the Ladue protest.
I listened to the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, their most recent episode “Police Abolition.” I also read a couple of chapters on racism in the book Untamed by Glennon Doyle.
Over time I’ve learned about structural racism and how our current systems do consistent violence to BIPOC communities. This podcast episode included an interview with police and prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba. Her discussion of alternatives to policing and envisioning an alternative to our current system helped me to understand how a change in the status quo can happen and how it could benefit our communities. It helped me look at how our society and country can move beyond recognizing the problem into advocating for and implementing systems that aren’t rooted in oppression and violence.
I read more of the book White Fragility and watched the movie Just Mercy with my son and husband.
I was full of rage and knew I wanted to do something meaningful other than be full of fury and hatred, so I chose to protest with my colleagues in Ladue/Clayton, and I personally wanted to be with my colleagues. I needed them and their support to help ease some of the pain.
This time was meaningful in many ways. The agency actually took a stance on systemic racial inequalities, realized our foster children, foster families, adoptive children, and colleagues are hurting, and gave voice and opportunity for many forms of expression and many outlets without repercussions.
I watched 13th (documentary) and started reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
I learned so much from 13th about our history of “legalized slavery” through criminalization and our criminalization of a race that makes up 6% of our population but 40% of our prison population (statistics specific to black men). I really had no idea how our laws, politics, and policies created the system of mass incarceration and the deep ramifications of these practices for Black Americans.
I watched the documentary 13th and the movie Just Mercy. Both the documentary and movie really opened my eyes to how little I knew about the ongoing injustices faced by Black people throughout history in the U.S.
I watched the movie Just Mercy and continued reading the book White Fragility.
I listened to the podcasts Code Switch and 1619.
I read a few chapters of a book that I had started in the past called Waking Up White by Debby Irving.
One of the most meaningful parts of what I read, which ties in directly with the recent protests, as well as the discussions we’ve had as an agency, is the importance of LISTENING.
As stated in the book, Waking Up White, “Listening both to bear witness and to learn. We need a listening revolution! I recognize the immense value in making room for all to hear and be heard. Whether it is individuals listening one on one or events organized for purposes of collective listening, allowing people to define their own realities is a critical component of creating equity.”
On Friday I did several things:
- Watched Just Mercy with my husband (an attorney) and discussed.
- Listened to several podcasts, including: The Kins-Women and Unlocking Us with Brené Brown and Ibram X. Kendi on “How to Be an Antiracist.”
- Conversation with my father-in-law.
On Friday, I watched Just Mercy and participated in a discussion with other people in St. Louis from a few different churches about structural racism, especially in regards to our justice system. I also started reading Malcolm X and began to do some research about racism in the history of my hometown in Union County, NC.
From Bryan Stevenson and Just Mercy, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth, it’s justice.”
I prepared a meal and served the FACC staff joining the protest and spent time with them. I started watching the ROOTS series.
“For it isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt
I spent my time at a rally and also watching the documentary 13th, which is painful and life changing.
The rally was an incredible evening of prayer, testimony, and call to action! It was honest, heartfelt, brave and inspiring. I would expect nothing less. It was students, alumnae, teachers and administration joining together young and old to say: “No More!” My favorite quote was from a young alumnae that spoke:
“Your Black sisters don’t need you to stand behind us right now, in fact we don’t need you to walk side by side with us either. This is the time your sisters need you to stand in front of us in a wall and be our ally.”
I watched “Remember the Titans” with my boys and had some conversations about various scenes and how they relate to today.
I attended the protest Thursday night in Brentwood and the protest Sunday afternoon. I also re-read The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Atlantic, which, whether you agree with the concept of reparations for slavery or not, does an excellent job of outlining how the historical wrongs against African Americans did not end at slavery or even segregation.
It was incredible to see thousands of people turn out this weekend for peaceful protests throughout the city and county. It gave me hope that after Ferguson, the Stockley verdict, and years of injustice that never made the news, we might actually see change in our community. Walking beside my friends and coworkers at the protests helped re-energize me for what will undoubtedly be the long road ahead.
I attended the Clayton Road protest in Frontenac. Attending this protest was very meaningful to me because I not only protested alongside my husband, but my coworkers, too. I have participated in many protests, but this was the first time I was marching with my coworkers. It was truly moving to see my coworkers be so passionate and endure miles of marching in high heat to fight for what we believe in.
I protested in Brentwood and, at the suggestion of Rev. Starsky Wilson, began reading The Broken Heart of America. I need to learn more about structural racism, so that I can: 1) understand my part in it; and 2) create positive change.
I spent my time listening to the podcast Code Switch, predominantly episodes about police killings involving race. I also participated in several conversations with relatives and friends about these issues and how to play out part in fixing that.
I was able to connect with my African American young professional groups and discuss what is going on right now, our emotions, and St. Louis actions being taken. We also designed posters for protests. One of the members is a historian so it was nice to have him really go through the history of oppression locally in the St. Louis region and connect it to national history. It was an open, honest, and raw conversation. I am glad I have a space like this to go to where I feel supported and heard.
I attended the protest on Friday evening in St. Peters.
My entire family went to two protests—one in St. Louis and one in St. Peters. I am no frontline protester, but when my 17 year old son said he wanted to go, frontline here we come.
My husband and I went to the Kirkwood Protest/Peace Walk. Our super-star volunteer Fonda told me about the protest, and I was excited that I might meet up with her and we could walk together and catch up. It was my first protest ever. I have plenty of political opinions but have always felt that protests never actually accomplished anything. But for me this was different. I wanted for African-Americans to see/hear/know that they have support from all communities – including us west county suburbia folks. I’m committed to better understanding white privilege and racial injustice and figuring out ways I can fight against it. I recruited 3 friends to walk with us, but did I run into Fonda? Ha! The protest was so HUGE, we estimated there were about 3,000 people there! So I was a little disappointed that I didn’t run into Fonda, but much more happy for the tremendous turnout. Fonda later told me that she (an African-American) was extremely moved to see such an outpouring of solidarity in her Kirkwood community.
I thoroughly enjoyed the small amount of time just seeing a few faces of my coworkers on Friday. The meal prepared by Karen was awesome.
I also took a moment to begin planning my Juneteenth celebration to commemorate the official freedom date of slavery. Texas was the last state to receive word to free the slaves on June 19, 1865. The focus of celebration is often about culture, family, and education. Here is a little more info if you wanted to read up on it.
I attended a webinar, “Protests and Privilege,” watched 13th on Netflix, and started the book White Fragility by Robin Diangelo.
I spent my time reading Warmth of Other Suns (I read it a few weeks ago, but went back and reread the stuff I’d highlighted) and I started reading the book White Fragility.
I spent my time Friday on several different activities:
- I discussed the following topics with my 12 year old son…the Black Lives Matter movement, Redlining in St. Louis, how people build wealth and examples of how our family benefited while African American families could not. We read articles about Emmet Till and Trayvon Martin and discussed. We also discussed the history of racist thinking and behavior in our family and how it was passed down through the generations.
- I listened to a podcast on the Central Park Five.
- I listened to a podcast about Robert Ed and researched him and his story.
- I had a discussion with two different family members about my views on racism and the part that white people play in it.
- I read three articles on the history of St. Louis in relation to racism.
“A riot is the language of the unheard,” Martin Luther King
I had the opportunity to join a zoom conversation with friends. As a group of foreign born individuals living in the USA, we shared about the different ways and resources we’ve used to learn about systemic injustice & racism, and discussed thoughts and ideas about proactive, lifelong allyship. We challenged each other to think about our spheres of influence and how we can use our skills and roles for the anti-racist cause. I also re-watched a conversation between Dr. Anita Phillips and Christine Caine titled Body Language: A Conversation on Race + Restoration and Christianity.
Taking this time to actively steward diversity and inclusion is the first step of our pledge that this work will be ongoing. In the coming weeks, we will create a long-term plan outlining our goals toward fighting the historical, structural racism that is at the very heart of the foster care and adoption system. Because transparency is also a core value, we will share that plan with you.
We know that action looks different for everyone. As you look to take action in a way that is meaningful to you, we hope you find resources and inspiration in our stories.