Free Anti-Racism Course for LDS Sisters starts this Sunday
A few months ago I came across an invitation for a 3-part series of lessons in Anti-Racism geared toward Latter-Day-Saint Relief Society women. The workshop is free, offered on 3 Sunday afternoons in a row, and is organized by Dr. Jennifer Keyes Adair, a professor and cultural anthropologist specializing in agency, racism and the learning experiences of children of immigrants.
I was very interested in the class, and curious about how the topics of racism and white supremacy in Mormonism would be treated over the 3 sessions. I asked two of my friends to join me in the class so we could share what we noticed and discuss over the 3-week period.
Some of the questions we had prior to attending the class were:
Who will be leading these discussions?
Who will be centered, and whose feelings prioritized?
Who is the course geared toward, and what is the desired outcome for participants?
How will the follow-up actions be organized?
The audience and goals for these lessons of anti-racism are stated in the registration form:
“This will be a time for non-Black sisters to learn, grow and repent for the ways we have ignored or looked past the everyday stress and trauma of racism, police brutality and other historical and current discrimination in and outside of the church.”
The three initial classes are led by Dr. Adair (Sister Adair?) “As a white woman, her job is to help white women think deeply about the role of racism and white supremacy in their lives and be a support for women of color who are asked over and over again to explain racism to their white and white passing sisters, family members and friends.” Jenn works in close collaboration with several Black women, including Carrie Knox and Kay Montgomery, who participate and lead in the 3 initial workshops. “This session is meant to help white people take responsibility for racism and is a stepping stone to larger gatherings that are planned and led by Black and Black bi-racial LDS women that started in September 2020 and will continue throughout 2021.”
Many Black and Black bi-racial women attended the sessions and offered feedback and context for the discussions. “Women of color are invited to participate and stay after to give critique and share thoughts.” The Black and Black bi-racial women who structured the content and were quoted in the course were compensated for their time and labor.
The words and experiences of Black women were first and foremost. Prior to attending the course, Non-Black and non-Indigenous Latter-Day Saints committed to “approach the discussion with apology and humility.” In relation to promoting peace, “As white and non-Black, non-Indigenous Latter-Day Saints who would like to live in peace, coming to terms with our own role in racial discrimination is an important part of whether we will see peace or not.”
The course was a combination of instruction from Jenn, Carrie, Kay, and others, breakout room activities for small group discussions, reflective questions and silent journaling.
The syllabus for the three sessions is as follows: Week One will focus on Black women’s accounts of anti-blackness as well as their advice to white and non-Black women starting to uproot white supremacy. Week Two will focus on how Black women’s experiences coming to church (those Dr. Adair has specifically been asked to share). Week Three will focus on being called out by the Black community and what it means to speak up and follow the lead of the Black community with determination and humility. In week three, participants are connected to smaller working groups based on state and city.
Those who have completed the three sessions are invited to participate in the national meetings and on a collaborative Slack channel that organizes future groups by region and into various passion projects.
Reflections on the course:
By Michelle Franzoni Thorley , Mexican-American artist and anti-racism educator: “Anti-racism work can be overwhelming. This 3 week class was a perfect intro. Each class built upon the last. As a woman of color, I recommend this class to my white family members to help them understand my experiences better and to also help them be allies in their wards and communities. I really wish every member would have to take this class before getting a temple recommend.”
By Violadiva, “As a white woman, I appreciated hearing truths, the difficult, uncomfortable truths, shared during the meetings in a spirit of love, trust and vulnerability by the Black sisters speaking. I was grateful for follow-up actions and meetings to steer my motivation and eagerness into the next steps, and very glad that the future initiatives are Black-led and based on the advocacy needed. I especially noticed the atmosphere of humility and desire to improve, not by performative strokes of ego on part of Jenn or other white coordinators, and how she publicly asked for and invited correction from the Black women several times in each session. This showed me that the class was not a space to cater to white comfort or feelings, that racial literacy and stamina was being developed by everyone, and that modeling cultural humility and learning is ongoing for everyone – including her. This example helped me see ways to make my advocacy for anti-oppression progress in the church more impassioned and effective. When I asked for their consent to share the registration info on this blog, she replied, “Please share the info with your readers – we want as many to participate as are willing.”
By Ramona Morris, the SassyDay Saint and influencer running ldsvisibiltyproject on IG, “I think this is a perfect way to start talking about the hard things. I think a lot of white people get in the space where they’re comfortable in their whiteness, especially members of the church, and they really struggle to see anything outside of what is normal to them. I would recommend it because it puts the introductory steps for them to learn about people who aren’t of their race. And this isn’t the place where the learning should end – there needs to be participation in the larger group afterward as a way to hear the voices of the marginalized groups, and their testimonies of what they’ve endured as a member of the church. It will be helpful to put names and faces to the stories of marginalization, and not just go back to old habits or performative actions. I think it’s a good place to start, and then ask ourselves ‘What are we doing after that? The work on the inside has to keep going”
From all three of us, we unanimously recommend this course to our white and non-Black LDS sisters, family members, ward members and friends.
The next session of courses begins THIS SUNDAY, March 7, 2021 and registration goes until March 6.
To register for the course and get the zoom link to participate, fill out this Google form by the end of March 6, 2021. Follow-up contact and meeting info is sent after registering.