Inspiring hope, change in conversations about race
Dover pastors lead virtual meetings
- The ToolShed, a series of Zoom meetings about racism, is every Monday in July from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- Link to register: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAof--qrzoqE9Lqg-ymH1VYw1mPkjgFBjUw.
- Next meetings are Monday, July 20 and Monday, July 27.
When two Dover pastors decided to host a series of conversations about racism on Zoom, they did not expect the response. Every Monday this month, around 100 people have been meeting to talk about the history of racism in the United States, white privilege and more.
“They’re very real conversations, but they’re happening online,” said the Rev. Kharma Amos of Unitarian Universalists of Central Delaware, who co-founded the series called the ToolShed. “It wouldn’t have happened in the same way if we weren’t all having to be super creative and think outside of the box anyway.”
Following the death of George Floyd and a heightened focus on racism across the country, Amos reached out to fellow minister, the Rev. Erika Crawford of Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church. The two started to identify key topics to include.
“We decided to title it the ToolShed because we really wanted it to be a place where we didn’t just talk, but where we gave people the tools that they needed to do the necessary work,” Crawford said.
Each session starts with a presenter who introduces a topic. For example, the first meeting focused on the history of the United States, and how certain laws and policies contributed to systems that have oppressed people of color. Amos said the virtual meetings allowed them to bring in speakers from different parts of the country.
Then, people break into small groups to discuss before coming back to the larger group. “It seems to me that people are open, [and] they’re willing to hear something hard,” Amos said.
Amos and Crawford said they enter the conversations with this mindset: “Let’s assume people don’t know, before we assume people don’t care.” Crawford said she thinks this has led to a level of respect. “We wanted people to know that this is not a place of attack. This is a place of learning and dialogue.”
Since the beginning of July, the two pastors have invited and joined with other faith leaders. While each meeting begins with a prayer, the ToolShed is open to people of all backgrounds and is not based in Christianity or any other faith.
The attendees are generally people over the age of 60 with a handful of people in their 20s, Crawford said. The racial breakdown is about evenly split, and she said the topics are not just “black and white,” but touch on many types of discrimination or oppression.
“Our hope is that we leave every session feeling hopeful and feeling human. I think we are living in a polarized world and we begin to see people as issues and not as people,” Crawford said. “We want people to be empowered, we want people to leave with the tools they need to have healthy dialogue and to invoke long-term systemic change.”
Amos agreed, saying she hopes these conversations might lead to change. “My hope still is there will be some lasting relationships built, and we can join together in some kind of joint actions that will be productive in Dover,” she said.
The next meeting Monday, July 20, will explore the difference between being non-racist and anti-racist, based on work by author Ibram X. Kendi. The organizers hope to continue these conversations after July.
To register, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAof--qrzoqE9Lqg-ymH1VYw1mPkjgFBjUw.