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.
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).
Fort Street Presbyterian Church, 631 Fort Street, Detroit, MI 48226
Are we only comfortable with the optics of diversity, seeing a picture that shows multi-culturalism? What happens when we actually try to create and effect change with people that have different perspectives from different upbringings and approaches to conflict?
Why is there still such disparity when it comes to CEO’s and other executive level roles held by people of color?
What happens to white Christians when they are asked to trust the leadership, pastorship, direction, or spiritual counsel of a person of color? Do they freak out, do they accept it, do they act polite in person, but quietly show disrespect in other ways?
When Marvin and Matthew co-led mission trip teams at DOOR Los Angeles, white Christian leaders often avoided taking directions from Marvin…why?
Co-Founder Matthew‘s father, a retired medical doctor in suburban Detroit, noticed that his black female colleagues were sometimes assumed to be custodial staff at the hospital. Why is this?
The Presbytery of Detroit and The Table Setters are coming together to set multiple table events in 2019. Like many organizations in our country today, the P.o.D. is grappling with how to transform an appreciation for multi-culturalism into active steps towards anti-racism and healing.
Marvin and Matthew will share stories about the real challenges of working through biases, microaggressions, and systemic racism within the evangelical Church context. It is not always Kumbayah, but they believe their hard-forged friendship is an example of iron sharpening iron, and something God calls us to do with a heart for justice and reconciliation.
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/
Co-Founder Matthew sharing a story about when he learned that turning the other cheek is actually an act of resilience and resistance, not cowardice. But he also asks: who is getting the most slapped in the face? It’s certainly not him….
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
Co-Founder Matthew is serving as a Challenge Detroit Fellow for 2017 and 2018 with 25 other entrepreneurs in the city. This week, his work is being highlighted here, copied below.
Tell us about one of your favorite neighborhoods in Detroit and what makes it unique?
In 2016, we packed up our life and moved back to Detroit from Los Angeles. Darcie and I had been feeling increasingly called to move back, so we took a leap of faith with our two daughters. I had grown up in the suburbs, at 13 Mile and Southfield, and had always loved spending time in the city, mostly downtown and Southwest. Knowing that one of our deepest longings was to live in closer context with neighbors, and that our girls would be raised in a diverse community, both socio-economically and racially, friend after friend kept pointing us towards the 48214 zip code and the Mack Avenue Church community. For about 8 months, we rented an apartment in Pingree Park and worked jobs with Lyft, The New Teacher Project, and Citizen Detroit. And then in May of 2017, we were able to buy a home for our family of four, just a block away. We have been blown away by the kindness and intentionality of our neighbors, both from within and outside of the church. Sitting on our porch swing, walking to the park, clearing out overgrowth in alleys, and even having to get up early to shovel snow has provided a tapestry of invaluable moments connecting to families and people who’ve lived here for decades. MACC Development, the CDC of our church, has just opened The Commons, the first laundromat/coffeeshop/tutoring/ community gathering space at the corner of Van Dyke and Mack. It’s only been open for two weeks, but already I’ve caught conversations about the pros and cons of charter and public schools; a hearty Kendrick vs. Tupac debate; and a sustained celebration of the new Black Panther movie. All over the low buzz of laundry and espresso machines doin’ their thing.
Tell us about the challenge project you’re currently working on, what are you learning from the experience?
Currently, my team and I are working with the Detroit Land Bank Authority to help them streamline the process of selling vacant lots to community partners and non-profits. We have interviewed about a dozen representatives from churches and service agencies looking to buy adjacent land for community gardens, outdoor performance spaces, and other projects they hope will bless their neighborhoods. The process of buying any property can be daunting and intimidating, but the mission of the DLBA is to see lots purchased and re-activated by Detroiters as soon as possible. I’ve learned that there is some confusion between the function of the DLBA and that of the Wayne County Treasurer, the entity involved in foreclosing and auctioning homes, too often starting a process that evicts people from homes they’ve lived in most of their lives. It is also clear to me, that if not done with ample care for these long-term residents who have challenging financial situations, the Land Bank’s urgent mission to deplete their property holdings as soon as possible will tip the balance of ownership towards those with the most ability to pay quickly. Thus, the Land Bank must proceed thoughtfully and attentively if they are to ensure that Detroit remains a city that is truly for everyone, and not just people like myself who had the means to move back from Los Angeles and purchase a home.
Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.
At my host company Teen HYPE, I serve as the Manager of Mission Advancement. Teen HYPE’s mission is to Celebrate Youth, Confront Barriers, and Build Bridges, and they do this in a variety of ways. Each year, the organization produces a stage production that shines light on a particular aspect of being a teenager growing up in the Detroit of today, so the play is written in large part by the students themselves. This year, our topic is the negative impact of long prison sentence on the families of the incarcerated, particular the kids. With my experience having served at the Prison Creative Arts Project at the University of Michigan, I was brought on board to help develop the curriculum and plan some events. We had learned that about 90% of the teens that make up the leadership of Teen HYPE are experiencing a parent or close family member either in prison or currently on parole. Where I grew up, just north of 8 Mile, this is definitely not the reality. So, we watched Ava DuVerney’s documentary The 13th, exposing the massive expansion of private, for-profit prisons in our country, and the troubling reality that slavery might be operating under a different disguise. We pondered the ideas of over-incarceration and over-policing of some communities. Ultimately, we asked: what are the emotional, social, and economic impacts on the kids who have to live in the reality of having a caretaker taken away? We invited students and people who are currently incarcerated to submit artwork for a gallery and community conversation, and this ultimately led to our stage production called Mis-Taken?, performed 5 times in early March of 2018 to roughly 4,000 student and community members. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
What kind of impact do you hope to have with your host company and within the city?
Teen HYPE is doing critical work. I hope that while I’m here I can do my part to get the story out to both Detroit as well as the suburbs. I know full well how suburban folks often misunderstand my neighbors in the city, how that trickles down to expecting the worst from our local teenagers. These misunderstandings lead to ill-informed assumptions and continued disconnect, and this nudges people into making both political and everyday choices that continue to damage communities outside of downtown. I am living a very different reality, seeing every day how resilient and brilliant our teenagers are, how they have hopes and dreams and ideas that could truly move Detroit towards becoming the kind of city that sets an example for the rest of the country. I will continue to build bridges towards new perspectives and possibilities.
What are you most looking forward to during springtime in Detroit?
This will be the first spring in our new home in Pingree Park, so I’m excited to start planting vegetables in our backyard garden, to finish fixing our porches, and to start having neighbors and friends over. I am also looking forward to cheaper gas bills, as it’s been a really long and cold winter!
How do you believe your fellowship will shape your career moving forward?
Challenge Detroit has provided me with a range of Detroit perspectives on business, politics, development and community activism. Just over half way through this fellowship, I am grateful for the stories and lessons I’m learning. I will continue to work on The Table Setters, the non-profit that Marvin Wadlow Jr. and I officially launched in 2016 to produce improved relationships across humanly created racial, socio-economic, political, and religious lines. We combine launch events in churches, schools, businesses, and civic institutions with customized plans for ongoing cultural accountability. We’ve seen that diversity training days are never enough, but that ongoing relationships that nurture connections and share brokenness, hopes and dreams, can be mutually healing and productive. Challenge Detroit has revealed to me, time and time again, how very true and critically urgent this is, what with the rancorous divisions in our city and country. I also sense that I will reconsider my call to ordained ministry, as this Fellowship has required me to take a significant break from my coursework at Fuller Seminary. I sense a growing call to community development, to continue learning how to really listen to people, story by story, and discern how to rebuild, or many times, build for the first time, trust between neighbors and neighborhoods in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.
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.
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.
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
Matthew was asked to join a dynamic group of panelists tonight on Leading Questions with Calvin Moore at Podcast Detroit. Hear Rabbi Glenn Harris of Shema Yisrael, Bloomfield Hills; Cheri Wellman, former Pastor of 37 North in Southgate; Singer-Songwriter Steve Phelps; Travel Agent Gaye Bri Moore (who also happens to be Calvin’s Mom); Matthew and hosts Calvin and Kent weigh in on what it means to be a follower of Christ today. From the personal to the political, from the aspects of finding a personal relationship with Jesus to the call for racial and social justice, this panel covers it all. Parts 1 & 2 below:
Rudy and Celah of Grace And Two Fingers, a show where “a Mexican and Black guy from the hood in Los Angeles talk about what Jesus has done and is doing,” invited Matthew & Marvin on their podcast with the question “why do Black and White people fight so much?” This blossomed into a rich and funny conversation about the intersections of faith, racism, “Whiteousness,” Jesus and the humor that can be found in the tensions when we keep coming back to the tables.
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.
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.
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.)