Gather@Grand continues to invite you to some ways to explore and respond to the urgent and current issue of racism; we have some new offerings and a reminder of what is currently in process.
The whole effort has been titled Roots, Resolves, Results. As we enter our fourth year, it was agreed among the G@G advisory board (Dr. Lee Ann Bartolini, Sr. Patricia Dougherty, Ms. Linda Carter Pete) and the SSD that we will have a solid and plausible culminating Fall 2023 program and then take (at least) a pause in Spring of 2024, since we Sisters will be thoroughly occupied with Chapter events, including the election of new leadership.
The Gather@Grand presentations and group participation on racism/anti-racism were born from the NY Times Magazine project, which was published in the fall of 2019 to catch the anniversary date of the “beginning” of African-based slavery in the US. As I, given the responsibility for shaping Gather@Grand in the “new” administration, pondered choices and wanted to focus on one thing rather than have speakers on miscellaneous topics, my eye fell on the NYTimes Magazine, and in a moment, our particular project was conceived and born. As we know, the larger base project and its lead, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has been controversial, a response that has allowed the nature of the racism study to expand and deepen. The controversy has become a very diagnostic part of the reality to be studied. Why the intense opposition to an investigation of the question of US racism?
In the last decades or so, the main focus has shifted from what would have been a given two generations ago—engaged activism of Whites working alongside Blacks to call attention to and work to eliminate the injustices of racism—to comprising a shift that determines the contemporary agenda: making visible the urgency that Whites come to understand much more historically and existentially the roots and persistence of racism in the US and to address those as directly and as personally as possible. To do both (work with Blacks and own the issues in being White) is good, but to do the first without the second has proved, over the past sixty or so years, to be largely ineffective and flawed in terms of ameliorating the problem of racism. Many good people have worked hard, but racism remains largely unacknowledged by Whites and thus is very powerful. So the change in focus from our “grandmothers’ civil rights” to our own efforts: Whites understanding much more deeply the determined and entrenched existence of racism and taking some responsibility to address it as we perpetrate it, we offer our final (for the moment) season or semester of anti-racism.
Our options A, B, and C (which allowed organizers and some participants to remain clear about who was involved with which option) have evolved a bit but are recognizable from their previous incarnations. Note that the three options (A, B, C) require varying levels of intellectual initiative and emotional engagement by those participating: watch slides and listen to an expert, read texts and respond, watch graphic films, and engage their vivid images with others. Emotionally speaking, the films are more intense than the pages of a book; group dynamics are more stimulating than watching something together in a darkened room; hearing an issue discussed and offering questions and comments as they strike us is not the same as being confronted directly. All are great, but their impact varies. So, how to move a bit more deeply? We need to design material, choose dates, reserve spaces, do promotion and publicity, attend, participate, and change!
Option A: History (Fall 2023)
Option A has involved reading and discussing books or hearing illustrated lecture-discussion about the lives of Black people as they lived among Whites in the US. We have read Isabel Wilkerson on the Great Migration, read about Black Foremothers we may not have previously known, and examined with the help of an expert key moments in US history where fateful decisions were made (e.g., the ratification of the Constitution, the emergence and then vitiation of the Civil War Amendments, the Dred Scott decision).
This coming fall Option A will have two lecture-discussions with slides presented by Mr. Mick Chantler, who will unfold for and with us the process through which Abraham Lincoln, arguably our most brilliant and wise President, evolved his position on slavery as he learned and experienced more. The two events are:
- November 1, 2023 (10:30 am – noon): Lincoln’s Journey: From the Backwoods to the White House
- November 15, 2023 (10:30 am – noon): “The Fiery Trial”—The Evolution of Lincoln’s Thoughts on Race and Democracy
These sessions will be held in person, at the Dominican Sisters Gathering Space at 1520 Grand Avenue. No Zoom option.
Option B: Guided Discussion via Zoom/in-person (Fall 2023)
Option B will be different than in past iterations. The group assembling will be guided by a new study of Martin Luther King: To Shape A New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Tommie Shelby and Brandon M. Terry. Terry was interviewed recently by Ezra Klein in a podcast presentation. This set of four in-person or Zoom sessions centering around the podcast and the MLK legacy will invite serious study of these materials, to help us understand afresh the role of King in the racism and civil rights struggle of his own era, to investigate what he has to contribute to the present moment, and to appreciate his contribution to nonviolence and religion-based ethics. We will have the expertise of Klein and Shelby/Terry but will also do our own discussion of their views as well. The basic outcome of the whole study will be 25 or so new and communicable insights regarding MLK on both anti-Black racism and nonviolence in general (theory and practice), generated among participants and offered for group consumption. Those who would like to take responsibility to investigate and offer one of these points will be welcomed.
- The sessions will be late in the afternoon on four Mondays (Sept 11, 25, Oct 2, 16: 4-5:30 pm)
- four 75-minute sessions with participants either present or zooming in.
Option C: Confronting Racism (Fall 2023)
Option C will shifts gears in the Fall of 2023 and work with materials created by Dr. Jacqueline Battalora, Professor of Sociology at St. Xavier University in Chicago, who has specialized in sociology, legal history, and civil rights, and is also a former police officer. She is the author of The Birth of a White Nation: The Invention of White People and Its Relevance Today (New York: Routledge, 2d ed, 2021). This module will take the form of a day-long (5-hour) learn-in to help us expose some incorrect information and assumptions we may have and replace them with data that make sense of the present experience. We will meet on a weekend day (early December 2 or 3?) and run for some five hours, moving through material aimed to accomplish three outcomes: 1) That we understand the constructed-ness of whiteness, why it is a non-essential category; 2) we will use the event of Bacon’s Rebellion (1673?) to situate the rise of the racialized categories; and 3) that we will see that one way to look at US History is to see it as efforts at racial injustice and pushback efforts to resist those moves. We will design the day locally but with Battalora’s input (if possible), using YouTube presentations (2014 and 2019) that feature her work (interviewed, or presenting—could be either). There may be some pre-assigned homework and there will be group engagement during the time of exposure to her ideas.
The Dominican Sisters offer an online Resource List, recommending diverse genres of materials to investigate and study: books, articles, films, podcasts, etc.