I asked Angela to sit down with me and share what the Friends Center for Racial Justice (FCRJ) has been doing this year, so it could be shared with our Meeting. I wanted to do this because I observe that Angela does not compartmentalize the work of FCRJ and racial justice. That work is part of her day-to-day life, wherever she goes. Below is a quick review of what she was up to in this past year.
The start of 2020 seems far in the past. It was before covid-19 when travel was safe. For Angela it meant a chance to go to Florida for a visit with family, and also experience the warm sun. While she was there, the Southeast Regional Gathering of the Friends World Committee on Consultation (FWCC) was meeting in Miami, and she took the opportunity to join them. Part of the gathering was conducted in a Spanish-speaking Friends Church. Angela found it comforting—it reminded her of the many languages and cultures which make up the Religious Society of Friends (RSF). Participants were from programmed and unprogrammed Meetings, and it provided an opportunity to talk with those having problems with racism.
In January 2020 FCRJ was a cosponsor of the film that Carolyn Kenyon, as part of the Finger Lakes for New York Health, brought to Cinemapolis about how Medicare was used to mount a coordinated effort that desegregated thousands of hospitals across the country. The film was well attended and followed by an informative panel discussion.
In February Angela started her drive back to Ithaca. She stopped to meet with the Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association (SAYMA) in North Carolina. In 2019 FCRJ had been invited to help resolve a racial justice concern through a listening project. This was her second in-person visit with SAYMA. In 2019 and 2020 there were also phone meetings where Angela was accompanied by a member of FCRJ’s Coordinating Committee to continue the listening project to address this concern. Time was given, in hopes that both parties could hear each other, understand the root of the problem, and clarify the Quaker concerns that are rising.
At the end of February 2020, the first workshop/event of the spring was held at FCRJ’s home base: Corporate Apologies/Corporate Forgiveness: Steps toward Building an Equitable Religious Society of Friends. Participants looked at what constitutes an apology. There are historical realities of broken treaties and broken promises. What makes our words and actions now different from the past? Participants left carrying that query.
Then, boom, COVID-19 arrived, and the remaining planned workshops were cancelled. But the work of FCRJ continued. The solidity of FCRJ may come from the fact that all the members of NYYM’s Task Group on Racism are part of the FCRJ Coordinating Committee—Friends who are used to working with each other on racism within the RSF. The visiting program of that Task Group lead to the formation of FCRJ. And Angela has a habit of bringing the concern of racial justice with her wherever she goes.
Angela’s and FCRJ’s involvement in the Meetings and Committees below is about addressing the issue of racial discrimination in the RSF. Addressing issues of equity needs to be part of every aspect of committee work, not just that of the Black Concerns Committee. We all need to have concern for how we handle our finances, who gets heard, and who is represented. Angela’s and FCRJ’s involvements include many aspects of Quaker life:
- The Northeast Region of FWCC met in the summer. FWCC-NE is composed of Canadian Yearly Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and New York Yearly Meeting. Angela is the Clerk of NYYM-FWCC. Each Yearly Meeting addressed concerns on climate justice and racial justice, the gathering showed the warmth and richness in the diversity of Friends who attended.
- NYYM’s Ministry Coordinating Council.
- NYYM’s Steering Committee of the Meeting for Discernment.
- Co-Clerk of Farmington Scipio Regional Meeting with Antonia Saxon.
- Rochester Friends Meeting: Frequent visits prior to covid-19.
- Ithaca Monthly Meeting: Children and the Life of the Meeting, and the Library Committee.
Interestingly, Angela notes that this period of COVID-19 is having some positive effects: our virtual Meetings for Worship, committee meetings, and social gatherings can include Friends at a distance, caregivers for the young and the old, shut-ins, and young people (who are very comfortable on Zoom!).
The new year brings opportunities. You will be hearing from FCRJ about “Table for Ten”—small, focused working groups. The gatherings can be virtual or in-person (once COVID-19 has fled).
I hope this brief article gives you a sense of the ongoing work of FCRJ that I have gotten a chance to hear about when I visit with Angela weekly, either in person or on the phone. Hope to see you (or hear you) at a Table for Ten.