by Carjamin Scott on May 26, 2019 at 10:05 p.m. CST
Last week, I attended The Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative Summer Institute at Vanderbilt Divinity School. I did not know what to expect. Admittedly, I assumed it would include, academic talking heads, speaking a language that would require me to keep a dictionary app handy and attendees who were racial justice experts claiming to advocate for inclusion but not actually doing the work. However, I attended because I wanted to silence my inner critic.
The institute lasted one week. We checked in on Monday and started with Collaborative Fellows giving us a Ted style talk of the work they had done regarding Public Theology and Racial Justice. I was impressed.
Later, we attended a Fearless Dialogues event. At this event, we were all greeted with, “It is good to see you.” Then, we practiced how to genuinely “see” the gifts in each other and the world around us. The experience was eye-opening and it helped me let my guard down for the remainder of the week. It encouraged me to “see” and call out what I see to make real change in the world.
Every morning started with “morning centering.” For me, morning centering was prayer, for others meditation or reflection. Each centering was led by a facilitator. After centering, breakfast was served. In addition, to breakfast, we were served lunch, and dinner and every meal was really good. I tried to sit at a new table during each meal to practice “seeing” new people.
We were able to choose tracks to further our understanding of Racist Governance or Radicalized Economics. I was interested in both tracks but ultimately chose Radicalized Economics because I am interested in learning more about Housing, Urban Development, and Gentrification. My tracks were led by Vanderbilt professors who were great at sharing their knowledge of the topics presented and engaging us to have group discussion.
After our tracks we had processing salons, in which we continued our group discussion and built community. It was during these intimate thought sharing groups that I came out of my shell and realized that the institute was not designed to teach me about Public Theology and Racial Justice. It was designed to encourage us to share our truths and engage in the work. The facilitators were effective at creating a safe space; and, it turns out that the institute was the self-care that I did not realize I needed.
Self-care is important if you are going to do this work. Community is equally important. Prior to the institute, I answered the call to service and committed to volunteering for The Equity Alliance. However, I was afraid to share that I am a member of this community. Reflecting on my fear and realizing that my assumptions were not valid, I understand how I have perpetuated the exact symptom that I claim to be against. In other words, if I am to continue finding a community of activists, I am going to have to share my activism too.
Now, I am no longer afraid to fight injustice, racism, and oppression. I am also excited to use what I learned to sharpen myself and my TEA community so that we can work together promote ourselves and seek freedom.
I am grateful to have ended the institute with a new beginning, new challenges to pursue, new confidence, and a new covering. Here are a few quotes from our leaders that you are welcome to share on your social media channels.
Ruby N. Sales, on inspirational women who have impacted the fight for social and racial justice.
Judge Wendell Griffin, on principles and presumptions for dismantling racist governance.
A charge to the cohort by Mary Hooks.
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Carjamin Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on twitter @scottcarjie, instagram @carjiescott, and facebook at Dr. Carjie Scott.