Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Love Letter. . .

Last week we Celebrated the 3rd year of the IMPACT Momentum Awards.  Congratulations to all of this year's honorees.  

During the fundraising portion of our event we launched our newest community building venue--crucial community conversations that we are calling "Are We There Yet Conversations."  These conversations are particularly targeted to connect with the established leaders in our community who are craving more meaningful dialogues about our future as a county.  The idea for these conversations emerged from a similar conversation that happened at the home of Joyce Newmyer, our Board Chair and President of Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.  It was one of the most significant, challenging, and inspiring conversations I've had since coming to Montgomery County.  

Soon we'll be sharing more information about how you too can have this kind of experience-- while helping to build community and our organization and the same time.  Until then please allow me to share reflections about this seminal conversation from Joyce-- and my response.

This is Why I Love You:  A love letter to my board of directors—and by extension to the Montgomery County Family.

Chris, DeRionne, Joyce, Laura, Sterling, Terrill, Will (and soon to be Jeff!)—thank you for opening your hearts and souls last night—and Joyce—thank you for so graciously opening your home and your table to us.

I want you to know that I admired the care and courage that each of you brought to our conversation about white privilege--and how we should talk about it as a County.  Your wisdom is sage.  Your faith and hope for all that our County can be is profound and runs deep.

Here’s what I’m taking away from our conversation as we continue to work together (and with our whole community) to help Montgomery County get to its best and brightest future:

This is not going to be easy.  But nothing that is worthy of our deepest hopes and affections will come without effort, intention, and a willingness to work—especially when the task is daunting.

Yes, white privilege exists, and many continue to benefit from it and struggle because of it.  Indeed we need to be mindful of privilege in all of its forms-- and work as hard as we can to limit its negative effects on other peoples’ humanity.  

As we talk about white privilege—we are not just referring to the privilege that individuals have accrued in their lives, but rather the historical and structural manifestations of privilege that exacerbate the unacceptable “gaps” that we see in our society. 

Because this kind of privilege is less concrete and often intangible, it is hard to see and discern.  Consequently many of us are frustrated because solutions that might address the challenge feel elusive and beyond our reach and imagination.

Because our work is grounded in faith, hope, and love, we do not have to choose between agitating, convening, and building community.  We can be all of these as context and circumstances dictate.

People have a lot of fear about these kinds of topics like white privilege.  Perhaps we most fear what the solutions require of us?  What will we lose?  What will we have to sacrifice?  We are overcoming this fear, driven by the promise of what we might gain—together.

We will not allow fear to overtake us.  Love will liberate us.

Lastly, we cannot keep the moment we experienced around Joyce’s table to ourselves.  There is a bigger community that is calling for us, longing for the same kind of meaningful moment.  They are as hopeful and as stuck as we are.  At the same time, they want what we want (and vice-versa)--a community that we can boldly call Beloved.  While there is much for us to learn and do, there are two things that we already know—1.) there are more tables to be set as welcoming spaces where our community can experience what we have experienced—and  2.) we will not be governed by fear, but by love. Yes love will not fail.