The Racial Justice Change Team (RJCT) formed in 2018, in part to fulfill a commitment that our congregation had made in 2016, when the Congregation voted at a special meeting to hang a “Black Lives Matter” banner prominently on the side of the building. The banner initiative was led by an ad hoc committee that included Cecelia Hayes, Theresa McCormick, Fred Matthews, Nikki Roberg, and Rev. Beatrice.
The initial organizers of the RJCT team, Fred Matthews, Kerrie Schurr, and Tracy Burrows, were inspired by the work that the East Shore UU, University Unitarian, and Woodinville UU churches were doing to advance racial justice. The leaders in these churches were facilitating conversations about taking deliberate steps to disrupt systemic racism. We wanted to grow a community committed to racial equity within our congregation. We met with the leaders of the Beloved Racial Justice Team at East Shore Church to soak up their wise counsel on how to sustain such an effort.
Westside’s RJCT launched in the spring of 2018. One of our early meetings was a day-long retreat where 16 members of the church worked to identify opportunities to make progress on racial justice issues at Westside. For some of us, it was the first time that we’d closely examined our own place in systems that grant inherent advantages to white-skinned people. For others, the retreat was an opportunity to introduce the concepts of cultural competency to a growing group within the congregation.
As we started our work, we developed an interim purpose statement. It is interim because we understood that we would gain greater clarity about the focus of our work as we gained more experience. Our interim purpose statement is “To directly challenge systemic racism and create opportunities for us and others to get educated about it, so we can fight against it together. To expose white privilege and our own place in it, while working to interrupt it at WSUU and in the larger community.” This purpose is ambitious and it is grounded in education, self-assessment, and action.
Our mission anticipates institutional change. So what kind of changes are we talking about?
An important step is to collectively increase our knowledge of the ways in which racism and oppression show up in our institutions and to develop the skills to take action to initiate change. The Beloved Conversations curriculum is a core part of increasing this understanding and we are grateful to the initial cohort of forty members of the congregation who have been engaging in these conversations since January.
Another step in making change is looking deeply at our policies and practices to see whether they promote equity. This work could include adopting a congregational commitment to racial justice that we hold ourselves accountable to. One of our priorities is to join the many non-profits and churches that are modifying their decision-making models to intentionally consider equity and to bring to light impacts of decisions on marginalized groups.