Have you ever wondered what possibilities could emerge if collaborative learning around race, religion, and justice took place in a context where the people who are most impacted by racial inequity are placed at the center of facilitating, leading, and organizing?
Project Curate is an organization that does just that. It explores God’s desire for a more humane world by working with academic, religious, and community partners to support civic engagement focused on issues related to bias, race equity, and social justice. The organization is inspired by Hebrew and Christian prophetic traditions which challenge folks to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”
Project Curate was born out of a growing frustration with religious responses to pressing social issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, police violence in urban settings, and economic disparities. The organization began in 2014 in Houston through a network of individuals active in academic settings and community social justice movements.
The Rev. Dr. Matt Russell of Project Curate led the plenary session at EHF’s In Common event in Tyler
Here’s how Project Curate’s leaders describe their work:
Matthew Russell, Project Curate’s Co-Managing Director
“Our work shifts congregations and communities down a path of moving beyond just sympathy and empathy when tragic injustices occur, and into a space of life-altering sustained compassion — also referred to metanoia when described in the gospels. When we engage in this way, we can not only feel compassion, but suffer along with those who are affected. This is the life-altering experience that transforms us into more just, equitable, and loving people. This is the hopeful future that is available for those that commit to doing this work. It is a joy to be in and of a community that is committed to moving in ways to bring about this life altering change in the world.”
Brandi Holmes, Project Curate’s Co-Managing DirectorBrandi Holmes of Project Curate leads a breakout group in the Racial Reconciliation workshop at EHF’s In Common Event
“Engaging in this work allows us all to fully live into and enjoy the abundance that are pillars of our faith. I view this work as an invitation to engage more deeply in creating the conditions for all people to experience a more just and equitable world. What better place to practice than in the faith community?
Doing the deep work of deconstructing systems of oppression that keep faith communities from engaging in this work is one of the ways that I feel that I contribute to making our mission a reality. There are many unconscious ways that our learned and lived experiences cause more hurt and harm in the communities that we seek to serve. A deep commitment to this work provides the opportunities for folks to introspectively and collectively acknowledge the harm and construct new ways of being. These are moments that we experience, like during Saul’s conversion, the scales fall from our eyes. Only after doing this work of deconstructing and reconstructing can we begin to see and experience God’s love and his love for people in new ways.
This is the possibility and invitation to all that are willing to do this work. Not only will you see and experience community in new ways, but you will begin to authentically seek to struggle with and engage in relationships in ways that not only transform you, but those around you. What we read in Acts 4 of having everything in common becomes a real possibility because the folks around that you seek to serve are now those that you love and care for deeply – all will have their needs met, there will not be any lack, and we will be all reap the benefits of living in a most just and equitable world.”
Q&A with The Rev. Matt Boulter, Associate Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Tyler to learn about his congregation’s work with Project Curate:
“First off I would say I’m just getting started and my hope is that there’s a lot more activity coming down the pike. But we did host an In Common event in Tyler and that gave us the opportunity to begin and to develop new relationships with folks that otherwise would never be caught in the same room together. I’m a pastor in this context and I have been leading the effort to capture some of that momentum and excitement and build on it, and that’s what we’re currently doing and that’s been very encouraging.”
Racial Reconciliation workshop participants of EHF’s Tyler In Common gathering
Q: Can you elaborate on what next steps the congregation is taking after attending the racial reconciliation workshop that Project Curate facilitated at EHF’s In Common event in Tyler?
“We had a follow-up meeting with many of the same people from Project Curate who were there and it was a wonderful discussion. We developed three little follow-up items that we want to pursue and we’re working on that. So we decided we wanted to get together for a barbecue. There were some other really cool ideas, for example, looking for ways to facilitate communication in East Texas among all organizations that are committed to justice work. It seems like there’s a lot of ‘the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing’ and so could it be that the Episcopal Health Foundation could play a role in streamlining that communication? That was the second thing. And then thirdly, we decided that we wanted to study the Bible together and so we’re going to do that as well, God willing. So one step at a time, but it’s all about the relationships and that’s what were excited about right now and really enjoying.”
Q: How is this work with Project Curate transforming you?
“Some of it is about my own personal stuff that I’m working on. I guess what I’m saying is the event in Tyler, I think it raised my own awareness and also the awareness of other folks in town.”
Q: What do you think Project Curate brings to the table that is different from other organizations?
“I think that if I understand what’s going on with Project Curate, it is a development and a network of relationships that emerged in Houston in the face of specific events that created trauma for a lot of folks and lot of communities. It’s a wonderful blend of pastoral, ecclesial, and theological leaders with other folks whose hands are maybe just more dirty in the life of the city. And there is a synergy there that I think is really amazing. And frankly, there’s nothing in Tyler remotely like that. And so I guess it’s the theological / relational / community organizing piece that I think is just really exciting. They are not like any existing structure that we know of right now.”
Learn more about Project Curate
Project Curate has designed a curriculum on religion and the social imagination that explores community-building strategies on issues concerning religion, community, and intersectional justice in local and national contexts.
To learn more, and how your congregation can partner with them on community work, please visit Project Curate’s website.