Last week, co-founder Matthew was asked by the Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice to participate in a panel about the current realities of Michigan. Sr. Simone Campbell, from Nuns on the Bus, brought together urban and rural Michiganians working in housing, community development, journalism, and social justice to establish contrast and dialogue. Interestingly, more points of commonality were discovered than anyone expected! Along with Matthew, panelists included Bankole Thompson (Op-Ed Columnist at Detroit News), Carina Jackson (COO of Mariner’s Inn), Joan Ebbitt (Associate, Adrian Dominican Sisters), Lynne Punnett (Former Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County), and Laura Negron-Terrones (Adrian Dominican Sisters, Immigration Office).
It’s never too early to set tables. Co-Founder Matthew’s 6 year old asked if she could share White Flour by David LaMotte in class today. It’s a true, recent story of Knoxville demonstrators out-creating the hatred of a KKK rally with humor and joy. It’s a must in any library: https://www.davidlamotte.com/white-flour/
Most importantly, this is only a beginning, but hopefully it has inspired a new perspective and posture on learning, confessing, repenting and taking daily steps to work towards dismantling systemic racism and classism. We confidently believe it is in line with Jesus’ teachings. We pray and hope this spurs all of us towards greater awareness and action.
If you’ve learned something from these past 40 posts, please share them far and wide with love, with hope, and with earnest expectation that we will understand God more when we learn to love one another ever more deeply and ever more truly.
May your Easter be filled with a sense of hope and possibility that Christ died and rose again for every single one of our lives, every single one of our beautifully diverse bodies and souls, and that we can celebrate the good, good work of getting to know the Kingdom here on Earth every single day.
We at The Table Setters would love to break bread with you in that celebration and this ongoing work, soon. – Matthew
I invite our white friends to join us in #RepentingofRacism throughout the 40 days of Lent by engaging in the habits and prayers we will post each day, the first several below, the rest can be found on Repenting Of Racism For Lent, on Facebook.
The focus, #AntiRacismforLent, was inspired by our brother in ministry, Andre Henry, specifically asking white people to take on the mantle of educating other white people about the current state of racial injustice.
Here’s how it will work:
1) We invite you to pray with us.
Prayer helps us self-examine and repent. We repent by asking God to reveal ways that we have allowed destructive, unjust (racist), circumstances to continue. We admit we have done so. We ask God to help us remove the conscious and unconscious white supremacy within our hearts and communities. Then, we ask God to remake us so that we can live differently.
We encourage you to print the prayer we have attached to this post, and to make praying this prayer a daily habit throughout Lent.
2) We invite you to try on habits of justice.
These are actions intended to help us advocate for racial justice in tangible ways. This week’s theme is #Prayer. Examples of future themes are #Politics&Power and #Communication.
3) We invite you to include community.
Growth is best sustained when it is shared! On Fridays we will post an activity you can do with #Friends&Family, Saturdays will be for #DialogueDays, and Sundays will be for sharing how our weekly experience went, #CommunityConversation.
By the grace and help of God, may this season of Lent change us all.
Day 1: A Daily Prayer:
God our Creator, We affirm that You have made all people in Your image, Instilling us with dignity, Calling us good.
You created us in a beautiful array of colors, Each one, fearfully and wonderfully made.
God, in overt and subtle ways, we have been taught a lie: The lie of white supremacy. The lie that white lives matter more than other lives. This lie denies Your image In our non-white brothers and sisters. We confess of consciously and unconsciously falling prey to this lie.
Eternal God, we confess the sins of our ancestors. Ancestors who built systems to enrich and empower themselves on the backs of millions of people of color. They carried out genocide against indigenous peoples. They enslaved Africans. They used and abused immigrants. The list of injustices goes ever on.
God, we confess to actively and passively maintaining a system that sins. It denies healthcare to the needy, Incarcerates at a profit, Unjustly shoots precious lives. When any of Your children suffer, our souls suffer too.
We confess that we fear the cost of following You, O God: If we stand up for justice, Our reputation may suffer. If we stop ignoring cries of injustice, We will lose the illusion of innocence. Ending our sin of “no action” means we have to get to work. To “take up our cross” is painful.
And so, God of Justice, we come to You. Reveal to us the unacknowledged racism within our hearts. Surface our unconscious preferences. Give us the courage to withstand honest self-examination. Give us the strength to fight for those who suffer.Give us Your vision of the community You designed us to become.
God of Mercy and Hope, Convict our hearts, stir our spirits, transform our minds. May this transformation create a ripple that lasts beyond this Lenten season. May it extend beyond our personal lives and into our communities. Make us agents of Your liberating work in the world.
Day 2: Video Reflection
For today’s #HabitofJustice, we invite you to find a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths, and watch this video: Author Jen Hatmaker On Raising Black Kids In America: ‘This Is On Us …
Having watched Jen’s story, we invite you to enter into prayer, noticing:
– What moment was most life-giving or hopeful for you? Speak to God about this moment of consolation. What might God be inviting you to notice about yourself or the world?
– What moment did you find most upsetting or concerning? Speak to God about this moment. What might God be inviting you to be, do or change?
Write these reflections down to carry with you into the rest of the 40 days.
Today’s #HabitofJustice is an opportunity to explore an experience of #WhiteGuilt* in a way that avoids burdening people of color.
You may want to journal as you go through this contemplative exercise, or simply find a quiet place to reflect.
Begin by taking a few deep, centering breaths.
Now, call to mind an experience you have had of hurting a person of color.
Picture this person sitting before you.
Gaze into their their face.
Imagine how they may be feeling.
Now, imagine apologizing to them. Imagine the exact words you would say.
Next, imagine telling them what you will do in this world to make amends.
Ask God’s forgiveness.
Finally, write down one specific change you can make in attitude or behavior to move toward more equitable relationships with people of color.
Day 4 & 5, #CommunityConversation
The #HabitofJustice on this #DialogueDay is to engage in at least 15 minutes of discussion with another white person regarding what you’ve learned about yourself this week. What is one behavior or attitude which you are committed to change? Pay close attention to your own implicit biases, especially ones that frame people of color in negative ways, and how a system that favors white people over everyone else has made your life more comfortable.
#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Lydia Lockhart, Matthew John Schmitt, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval, Lauren Grubaugh, Daniel Russell, Luke Arthur, and Maddie Joy, as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the @RepentingofRacismForLent Facebook page
Charlottesville. The United States of America. 2017. What follows is a collection of some of my Facebook posting, along with some friends who inspire me, in the after swirl.
In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. – Galatians 3:28, The Message
“We are not born with prejudices, they are made for us by someone who wants something…to break us into small (and conquerable) groups.”
If a politician or a pastor doesn’t call out the hatred of #WhitePower, maybe we should ask, might it be serving them?
We know what fascism is. We know what racism is. We must resist and we must wake up.(The clip above is from an anti-fascism film made by the US Government in 1943 called “Don’t Be A Sucker.”)
August 12, 2017
Dear European-American Christians: I take this moment to remind you that following Jesus and claiming Christianity are two very different things. Jesus called out the religious elite of his day for being in collusion with political and economic power as opposed to trusting the truth of God.
If your church does not make reference to the hatred on display last night and today, if someone tells you it is just the “fringe” of the Republican party, be very suspicious. #UniteTheRightRally is meant to divide and conquer.
If you’re happy that your church doesn’t bring it up, I implore you to read Isaiah. Read Jeremiah. Read any one of the four Gospels from start to finish. Take notes. Pay attention to how the leaders and kings lead and how they are confronted. Pay attention to who Jesus singles out as the protagonists in His lessons and the antagonists. Pay attention to the overall arc of justice that plays out.
I’m going to say it: 45 is a golden calf. Made by the white people, made for the white people, made as a substitute for God. We are witnessing a worship of a golden calf.
|Reddit user Reagente created this map.|
Awaken. There is hope in the Bible. It’s real to me and it’s being cheapened by politically powerful white America to a sickening degree. Jesus invited us all to the table. None of us are over or under welcomed, and none of us deserve it any more than another. #BlackLivesMatterwas a reflective response to the dominant #OnlyWhiteLivesMatter reality we’ve been subjected to since this country’s founding. As Andre Henry says: there is not room for argument here. You either accept that reality or you live in delusions.
Please, now, open your eyes and your ears and your hearts. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us all.
August 13, 2017
(I stepped back and listened this day. Here’s the best of what I found.)
|Follow Donna Givens, Executive Director of the Eastside Community Network in Detroit, Here.|
|Follow Pastor Mike McBride, Director of People Improving Communities through Organizing, Here|
|Seriously, super stress-relieving.|
The passive and excuse-laden comfortability with the ongoing legal, social, and nationally supported systems of White Supremacy, both the overt and riotous, as well as the more insidious and hidden daily aggressions from well meaning white people (like myself, I admit), makes me want to knock shit over today. Thank God I’ve still got Angry Birds on my phone.
How in the hell do we move past this with integrity, equity, and effective consequences? How do I, as a Jesus-follower, contain my anger and find love for my current enemies to “heap burning coals” upon their passivity and reveal that God meant what he said when he challenged us to love our neighbors, and that heaven will be hard to get into if we are spiritually diluted by our privileges here on earth? People: I believe this tension is what it’s all about. Do we trust God enough to actually love and fight for our neighbors?
August 15, 2017
To be clear:
I am not against white people. I am against white dominance, and anything that seeks to support white dominance as “all-powerful” or “most preferable” is deeply problematic. I actually grieve for white people who are consumed by maintaining “whiteness.” I have seen this destroy more white people than I can bear to mention. It has caused me depression and anxiety. I believe it is because it was never God’s intent for any one group to believe themselves better than any other. This is not about guilt. It’s about hope.
Yes white people have had to work hard. I’ve never denied that. But why is it so challenging to accept what I’ve seen, from years of teaching in European, African, Asian, and Latino-American school contexts: the kids I’ve taught with browner skin have had to work much harder to achieve similar levels of success, than their lighter skinned peers. I am not making that up, it is real and it is a problem. Why is that so hard to accept and so tempting to dismiss as “emotionality,” or “playing the race card,” or whatever else has been said to discredit what those of us who’ve crossed boundaries know to be true?
I lament the fear of “the other.” I believe when Jesus challenged us to trust God and love all our neighbors, he meant that. In my life, I have found that learning from people in races and cultures and socio-economic classes other than the one I was born into has given me an ever-clearer picture of the kingdom of God. The diversity helps to paint a fuller rendering of how amazing God is. So I strive to learn more, and I trust the experiences of first hand stories more than news stories framed and reframed for profit and ratings.
I may be using social media more than is healthy at times, but social media, for me, is a way to generate dialogue that is hard to have on a daily basis. Of course, it’s easy to get stuck in a loop, so we all must encourage one another to take these important conversations into our face to face interactions. We don’t have a precedent for how to best use this medium, so we are all learning as we go.
I believe people do change, when confronted with the right stories in the right contexts. I’ve also seen great hope in my family and my friends. I mean, isn’t that what the entire walk with Jesus is meant to be? A place to continually move your life more and more in line with His? If we don’t believe people can change, then it’s a pretty shallow Gospel.
I make mistakes all the time. Some kind old friends recently pointed that out to me. I’ve been guilty of trying to save all the poor black kids and I’ve gotten my ass handed to me over a warm cup of Gumbo. I’ve engaged in fights that should’ve ended in more prayer and walking away. I’ve been called the “white devil” as well as “racist against white people.” But let me assure you, these are not the worst things that can happen. These are survivable.
What is not okay to me: turning a blind eye to actual suffering, especially when doing so out of convenience or uncomfortability. True, we can’t fight every battle and it would be arrogant to think otherwise. But I’ve been deeply troubled by the lack of concern for the ongoing systems that support one group’s pursuit of life and liberty over another’s, especially from within the Church when there are ample passages decrying economic structures of oppression. I feel we must stand strong. Whiteness is the problem with race, whiteness invented the current structure of racial hierarchy in this country, and it works hard to support itself. It wants to rule economically, morally, and culturally. It is the distraction that I feel called to stand against. It is not the only problem we Christians are expected to combat, but it’s the one I feel God asking me to focus on, through how I was made and how life has shaped me along the way. (Original post, with comments, here.)
With love, hope, and peace by peace,
Come along side our work at The Table Setters. We’ll pass the gumbo.
A few months ago, my daughter Charlotte said: “Dada, I want to make a video about Detroit for the Table Setters.”
My favorite part of this was that she started writing in her notebook about all the people she wanted to interview so there could be older and younger people, strangers, people who’ve lived in Detroit for a long time and people who are new, and she said, “I know, I know, I’ll definitely talk to people who look like us and people who don’t look like us.”
She decided to ask people what they like about our new city, because even at 7, she’s noticed that people tend to say many negative things about Detroit. Marvin helped her think like a director and an editor, and of course, we helped her learn how to use the iMovie program. She asked me to compose the music, and was very clear about how it should sound. She chose the titles and imagery, and I helped her find some photos to enhance the stories people were sharing.
Obviously, I’m proud of her, but I also think it’s important to note that our kids, (not just my kids, but all kids) can handle thinking about narratives and community and diversity even in grade school. In fact, most of the divisive mindsets people carry around with them originate at early ages.
Without further ado:
Marvin loves to do behind the scenes kind of extra footage, so we did this as a little promo. Of course, we did it on a Friday right after school, she was hungry, and you can see the weekend jubilation setting in. 🙂
Thanks for watching, feel free to share, and any comments you leave will certainly be shared with the producer herself.
It’s been 11 months since we displaced ourselves from Los Angeles to Detroit. But yesterday, I got to come back to Hollywood, thanks to an incredible exhibit called “Displacement and Gathering” at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood which featured a live artistic performance of a Table Setters gathering around a table to discuss race, politics, the idolization of all things white. We talked about what we might learn from other cultures, other perspectives, and other people with whom we might expect to disagree with, be afraid of, be opposed to meeting. We talked about why God created diversity to begin with, if it wasn’t to learn how to appreciate God’s love for beauty in variety.
Marvin’s All-American photos and videos with quotes by Frederick Douglass and Andre Henry were featured alongside original artwork by Hyung-in Kim, Maria Fee, Anne Baumgartner, Andrea Kraybill, Brian Fee. I want to let you have a glimpse of that work below.
For me, personally, I felt “gathered,” after being displaced. I was invited to play piano again during the worship service. I was invited to dinner with old friends. I got to hang out with the old team of Discerners from the Gregory avenue neighborhood, kids I knew since they were kids, and now they are all hovering around 21. It was great to be gathered back. But I also thought of how many people get displaced and are never able to return to glimpses of home. I think of Native Americans pushed off their land. I think of people living homelessly in Hollywood who get shuffled along, especially during the Oscars, every year. I think of warriors snatched out of their homelands to come build a country for white men. I think of refugees fleeing impossible situations, either economically or politically, to do right by their families, to survive.
I think of all the many people in Detroit who’ve been told their house is not worth the cost it would take to fix the roof, so they just have to slowly let the water seep in. I think of what it might mean for us to turn back that tide. I think of what it might take. I pray to God we have the strength and courage to dismantle the walls that divide us, and I think Whiteousness has always been one of the most formidable. Like the forcefield blocking entrance to the planet with all the secret codes in Rogue One…..
This week: we moved into a new house. Another displacement and re-gathering. We are trying to buy this house, but are facing challenges because, like many of our neighbors, it is not being valued as high as the seller is hoping to sell it. What is value, and who decides? The nature of this post is understandably scattered and questioning, which I think fits well alongside the artwork to follow. Let it speak to you too.
What if we could allow everyone to be considered, “white?” Of course, i think that would be a terrible idea, as whiteness is the problem. But, what if we could truly understand each person as a beloved child of God, as beautiful as God intended?
But first, listen to the incredible Diane Ujiiye deliver an opening prayer of sorts through spoken word:
Displacement and Gathering
“Remembering for Refugees” by Hyung-in Kim: the interlacing strands were produced in art workshops. In these educational venues the artist directed participants in the shared activity of braiding bands as a pedagogical tool to raise awareness of cultural diversity and to build empathy. Her project also commemorates the 25th Anniversary of the LA Riots.
“Pourous Wall” by Maria Fee: a wall is erected as a barrier: it can contain, or it can keep things at bay. Boundaries are necessary to create distinction. Yet when a wall is impenetrable, how can relationships occur between what’s inside and outside? When a wall is too high, how can the strange draw nearer to become more familiar?
“Alienation” by Brian Fee: to exist is to struggle. In attempt to elevate the self, someone else may be pushed away. This brings about a double alienation: the one who is cast off, and the offender left alone.
“Gather and Embrace” by Anne Baumgartner: welcome can function in many ways, both literal and symbolic. Through words, expressions, and physical space, God utilizes the particularity of place to gather the many in order to embrace them. How can we create room for each other and also the Holy Spirit?
“Interwoven” by Andrea Kraybill: the multi-layered bands installed above the church’s entrance, found near the intersection of two streets, further speaks of hospitality. It provides an alluring invitation for passersby to enter into a meditative space for renewal and refreshment.
Matthew shared a story at the first #DetroitStories event at The Studio Detroit about when he learned what “turn the other cheek” actually means. It was supposed to be about redemption, which is a huge word, but Matthew believes we often experience redemption in small ways, person to person, when we take off our masks and really look at each other’s humanity.
Displacement and Gathering: Spring Art Exhibition April 23-May 7, 2017
First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, Art Gallery
1760 N. Gower
Hollywood, CA 90028
The philosopher Jacques Derrida relates the way the alien in our midst questions long-held assumptions, norms, and customs. This could lead to acts of hostility or hospitality. Through a cluster of art installations at FPCH near Carlos Street entrances to the sanctuary, the poetic becomes the means to metaphorically display the way the strange and the stranger, variety and form, enables possibilities for insights and assists in welcoming what is other. This includes opening participants to the mystery of the Triune God. This notion is explored in Hyung-in Kim’s collection of braids showing how three differing fabrics can interweave to become one strong and beautiful cord. Besides relating the oneness and diversity of God, the braid also speaks of human ethnic and racial diversity tied together to create new cultural forms and unions. Furthermore, the visual elements of displacement and gathering characterized in these installations bears affinity to a major theme that runs throughout Scripture: the hope for accord amid human alienation from God, others, and the land. Visit installations by Anne Baumgartner, Brian Fee, Maria Fee, Andrea Kraybill, Hyung-in Kim, and Marvin Wadlow. Most of these artists will be available for conversation on May 7th after 11:00am service, 12:00pm-2:00pm.
Here is the NPR All Things Considered story about Hate in Schools that they mention: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/04/05/522718288/fighting-hate-in-schools