Five minute reflection on “me and white supremacy” by Layla Saad Germantown Mennonite Church, May 2, 2021

One of the problems of white supremacy culture is that the culture centers on white people, and sees things through only white people’s eyes, for the benefit of white people.

As I worked with creating a 5-minute talk about Layla Saad’s book, me and white supremacy, I had a good talk written and ready to go. Practiced, re-written, honed. but it didn’t sit right.

Good story. All about what I had learned, how I had grown, the significance to me of facing hard questions, not only looking at white supremacy culture, but also looking at how facing white supremacy was helping me with other challenges in my life.

It was all about me.

I had to toss it.

This reflection is not as put together, but here are some points from Layla Saad’s book.

First: we can’t do this right. Do it anyway.  You’re going to make mistakes. Make them. Learn, and start again.

Second: this is not easy, and if you can walk away from facing white supremacy culture, and you can take a break from racism, you will be compelled to do so. When that happens, and you take a break, start again.

Third: where is your learning sweet spot? I like numbers, so a 21-day challenge of reading or practicing a new pattern every day and logging it motivates me. But you might have a different motivation. Find your motivation for learning about white supremacy culture, and make a commitment to do so. We need good ancestors.

Fourth: Facing white supremacy culture is uncomfortable. Practice staying present in uncomfortable conversations. Stay present. Understand and unpack your discomfort. The goal is to stop harming black and brown people.

Fifth: Imagine walking in another’s shoes.   I can’t tell you disclosing stories about the racially diverse situations that I’m in, so let’s look at publicly written work. Austin Channing Brown wrote a book called “I’m still here”. She writes about her experiences as a black woman within a white culture dominated evangelical church. When she describes meetings that harm and isolate her, I can see myself sitting in those same meetings, unaware that what is going on is harmful.

Arundhati Roy says
“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”

Austin concludes her book by saying she doesn’t have hope, but she is living in the shadow of hope. This is helpful to me, not only in the realm of dismantling white supremacy, but in other areas of my life where I can’t see hope.

I’ll accept that as I’m attempting to center on black and brown people, I’m failing. I keep circling back to me.  

Focusing back on Layla Saad’s book, clearly, I’m working on stepping into difficult topics and conversations. I’m also working on hearing correction without being defensive, and speaking out without first covering myself by getting someone else’s authority. In each of these healthier patterns, I’m vulnerable, I’m exposed.

Of course, I’m having a repetitive naked dream. In the dream I’m going about my business, shopping, driving, walking in a crowd, and I’m naked. And you know what? No one cares. It’s not about me. I don’t need to be hidden and falsely protected. I am in own my skin.

Thanks for listening.

8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum: Leading in improving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

The 8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum organized and hosted by the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, September 2020 is an outstanding example of hosting a conference that is inclusive in equitable structure, messengers, and content. In the midst of a pandemic nonetheless.
Bartram’s Garden, photo story “a”

As we build a future together, we must consider ways that white centered culture in the environmental field can change and stop harming black and brown people at every level.

The 8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum stands out as a model of diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice, for all of us to follow. Every one of the workshops that I viewed seemed to demonstrate a healthy serving of DEIJ. Plus the coalition for the Delaware River watershed created The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice toolkit for the rest of us to consider and use.

Access Delaware River Watershed presentations: Uniting The Delaware River Watershed

This annual forum and the toolkit provide resources for continuing the conversation on the change that is happening, that needs to happen, in the environmental field with regards to white supremacy culture.

Resource: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed

The Town Hall with U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) & DRBRP Lighting Rounds -2020 DRW Forum presentation stepped solidly and unapologetically into the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, acknowledging historical problems, and changing the narrative by example.

Recommended YouTube: Town Hall Presentation

There was no bemoaning of the lack of presence of people of color. Instead, stellar people of color were given the floor.

Mic drop.

The opening speaker, Eric Stiles, from New Jersey Audubon Society acknowledged the harm done to people of color, and to trans folx.  Then the floor and attention was centered on United State Representative from New York, Antonio Delgado. End of story. Excellent presentation by Rep Delgado.

Of note in the “lighting round” presentation following Rep Delgado’s presentation is the work done by Lamar Gore, Refuge Manager for Heinz Refuge Center, one of the 5 speakers. Follow Heinz on facebook, and look for Lamar’s comments about diversity the week or so after the “black while birding” incident of Central Park, NYC.

Resource: National Wildlife Refuge / John Heinz at Tinicum 

An Equally impressive presentation was Power and Privilege in the Workplace.

Recommended YouTube: Power and Privilege in the Workplace / 2020 Delaware River Watershed Forum

The lead expert was Todd Pride, Managing Director from The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC). The topic was changing the diversity, equity, inclusion and justice of the board members of an organization. No apology, no small potatoes, the board needs to understand and embrace DEIJ. The workshop structure was: Todd as the senior expert, and two other people and organizations who had learned from Todd.

Mic drop.

How often does an environmental conference give voice to a person of color who is the expert, demonstrating that white people can learn from a POC? This should not be momentous. But it is.

There were other presentations that were also excellent. During each presentation, the spotlight was shared amongst racially diverse presenters. One such presentation, by water utility leaders discussing COVID 19 challenges, included our own Randy Hayman, Commissioner of Philadelphia Water Department.

All in all, The 8th Annual Delaware Watershed Forum is a stellar example for all of us to follow.

Bartram Garden’s Photo story “b”

We can be anti-racist by personal internal process, by intent, and by action. White centered culture is harming all of us by excluding some of us. We need all of us in order to be successful with facing today’s challenges that include climate change.

Resource: National Geographic / Environmental movement
Resource: Dismantling Racism Works / White Supremacy Culture - White supremacy culture refers to the white centered culture that is (perhaps unconsciously) harming black and brown people.
Resource: New York Times / 1619 Podcast

Water, Water, Everywhere, What is a Watershed?

By the Wissahickon River

We are connected to our natural water, both in the house, and outside in the environment.  

As you are staying home as much as you can and physically remaining distant and socially staying connected, be glad that you have reliable, healthy, high quality drinking water!  

Our drinking water in the City of Philadelphia is pumped from the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, and cleaned to high quality in one of three Philadelphia Water Drinking Water Treatment Plants. Where does the water come from before it gets to the river? In some areas it might come from springs underground, however, in Philadelphia and most of the suburbs, the water we drink is from surface water: rivers and reservoirs. Rain runs off from the surface of the land around the rivers. This land is the watershed of the river.  A watershed is the land that “sheds the rain” to the river. You can create a paper watershed at home, and explore what happens when water rains on the land, and runs off to the river.

Carpenter’s Woods in the Wissahickon Creek Watershed

Make a Watershed

The point of this activity is:

  • To see that rain falling on high ground will run across the land to the river.
  • To see that trash and pollution on the land will be carried by the rain to the river.
Sample Materials

Materials

  • Plain paper sheet, at least letter size, but larger is better.
  • A pan to catch water (for example, a broiler oven pan).
  • A slope (for example, a cookie sheet).
  • Small jars to hold up the paper (to make hills under the paper).
  • Tape to hold paper in place.
  • Permanent marker or pen (to mark the high ridges).

A selection of Items that will be pollution:

  • Washable markers
  • Food coloring/powdered chocolate/Kool-Aid powder.
  • Spices such as herbs, pepper, colorful turmeric or paprika.
  • Spray bottle of only water or a bowl of water that you can use, dipping your fingers in the water and sprinkling (making rain).

Directions: You can do this different times, in different ways, as you see fit.

Crumple the paper, and open it up, arranging it as land on a slope, with higher ground and lower ground. Use small jars or cups to make the hills and a valley. Mark the ridges with the permanent marker or pen. 

To show pollution, make up a story of pollution, placing different colors of things on the ground as you tell the story.  Perhaps: Billy was out walking, and he noticed soda cans and plastic bottles on the ground. Shantel was at the playground and she noticed torn newspaper advertisements and cigarette butts on the ground. Kai’s uncle noticed a  pool of car oil on the street. Kim’s cousin noticed dirty diapers in the street gutter.

What else could be on the ground that is left by people and causes problems for the river? Place all the pollution that you want to demonstrate on your model.

  • dog waste
  • industrial chemical spill
  • cooking grease
  • road salt
  • fertilizer/pesticide/insecticide/herbicide

Finally, make it rain by sprinkling water on the paper model of the land.

Notice that all the pollution from the land can make its way to the river.

We each can do our part to keep the river clean by helping to keep the land clean!