Congregations work toward racial reconciliation in East Texas

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Decades of scientific research proves that racism contributes to poor health and impacts community health. Interpersonal and structural racism contributes to heart disease and other diseases, creates and sustains isolation, and perpetuates fear in divided communities. It may sound overwhelming, but there are positive steps you can take, and EHF is ready to take them with you. We have been working to advance racial reconciliation in the diocese, partnering with others at the local, diocesan, and national levels. 

Recently, EHF supported screening of the award-winning feature length documentary Traces of the Trade, which tells the story of a family’s struggle with the discovery of what it means to be descendants of the foremost slave trading family in the United States.

“The legacy of slavery is racism in our country today” shares Dain Perry, descendent of the DeWolfe family and co-facilitator of the Traces of the Trade screening and dialogs. Dain and his wife Constance have been screening the film and leading conversations on racial reconciliation for 10 years. Having led more than 350 sessions all over the country, no two are ever alike.

“We sit and watch the film with each group," said Constance. "Every time we do this, we see something new based on how the room responds and reacts to various parts of the story."

"And we can never predict how these conversations will go," Dain said. "But people share deeply, and often surprise themselves by what they say. Sometimes they reveal a story they’ve never even shared with their spouse!”

In September, Dain and Constance traveled with EHF Congregational Engagement Officer Eric Moen to screen the film at St. Cyprian’s-Lufkin, Trinity Church-Marshall, St. Francis-Tyler and St. Stephen’s-Beaumont. More than 180 people participated in the screenings, including many members of the community. 

After the screening, each congregation and many community members said they will create dialog for deepening relationships and revisit themes of looking back in order to move forward.

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The Traces of the Trade story sharing events in East Texas fit well in EHF’s partnering with Becoming Beloved Community, the racial reconciliation movement coming out of Presiding Bishop’s office of The Episcopal Church. Becoming Beloved Community approaches racial reconciliation in four parts: tell the truth, proclaim the dream, repair the breach, and practice the way of love.

In early October, EHF’s Congregational Engagement team and Kitchen Cabinet, which is comprised of diocesan clergy and lay leaders, came together to further this work to build awareness and develop a shared understanding that moves into transformational community action. All community action begins with conversation and relationship building. That shared foundation creates the common ground to move into shared community action: working together on a common goal.

In addition to the alignment with Becoming Beloved Community, EHF’s efforts are in concert with the work of Denise Trevino, Missioner for Intercultural Development of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and Ayesha Mutope-Johnson, chair of Province VII’s Multicultural Relations and Racial Reconciliation Network to provide unified coordination and resources to EDOT congregations and communities. Local congregations are also showing leadership. The Union of Black Episcopalians - Austin sponsors conversations and training centered around One Human Race for Austin-area congregations.

Increasing inclusion, creating alliances, and providing avenues for exchange among diverse groups creates avenues for making an impact together. This work of developing community space allows for joint thinking and planning for change that leads to building community skills and shifting mind sets. Please join in the conversation. All are welcome. Follow-up conversations will be happening in East Texas in November. EHF is adding additional listening events and training sessions with congregations using Traces of the Trade, as well as other programs that will begin early next year.

For additional information on EHF's racial reconciliation work, please contact Eric Moen.

October 2017

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