The following is a transcript of a presentation by Pam Noli during Celebration on
September 25, 2022.
You’ll all remember in March of 2020, we emptied out [the Sanctuary]. Had to close it down, but we never missed a Sunday. Glide went on virtually. In May, just a few months later, there was the murder of George Floyd and Racial Reckoning was really getting to be a noticeable phenomena in our culture. The next month we formed the Glide Anti-Racist group.
Since then, we’ve met once a week for three weeks every month. 90 minutes each time, 11 months a year. And what is that? Two and a half years now. So there’s a number of our members who are here before I go on, and I’d just like you to know who they are.
So those of you who are here, members of the White Anti-Racist Group, stand up.
And there’s a number online, well, of course we know, Tom and Jane and Linda, and, you know, there’s so many more who are watching us and whose hearts are with us. So when we first formed, we decided that whatever we did, it had to be aligned with Glide’s core values. So we had to make a space within the context of white for everybody that was interested, no matter where the context they were coming from.
We knew that we had to have space for people to tell their stories. Because that’s what we do at Glide. Those sacred stories that Marvin spoke of. We knew that we had to be loving and hopeful. And we also knew that we had to focus on being in recovery. And we are recovering from white supremacy.
We knew that we had to, we were gonna come up against a lot of barriers, which we have. But we had to support each other. And that’s a point of a group, is to form so that we can support each other. And finally, that whatever it is at Glide, we have to celebrate.
So we open with music, we close with music and/or poetry. So we do celebrate. I remember some years ago, a white woman approached Malcolm X after being very motivated by one of his speeches. And she said to him, “How can we help? How can I help your people?” This is a white woman speaking, and he said, “There’s nothing you can do for my people. Go back and take care of your own.” And that’s what we do. We’re a group of white people. We formed a mission out of that inspiration to engage, to sustain, to deep into practice our inner work, our learning, our conversations, and actions around whiteness. So that we are enabling ourselves to act as a fact of allies, as effective accomplices, personally, locally, and systemically.
To do away with and dismantle racism. Our focus, first of all went deep into the kind of origin stories of all of the oppressed groups that we interact with and see the effects of those origin stories day in and day out.
And then, and in addition, we focused on systemic and internalized oppression and racism. We’ve played around with a number of books that you can see here, and then also stuff comes up every week, doesn’t it? There’s current events every week they draw our attention, so sometimes that’s our focus, but we all always have some content to go to in addition to that.
We have one session a month that is open. That is people bring whatever happened to them within this context, you know, it’s kind of sharing when you step into it, which we do, and how we can get better at recognizing our own internalized white supremacy and also how to interact with people of color in a more productive way.
So we look at our own, through — one of the things is that we wrote racial autobiographies and then shared them with each other. We are always recognizing, looking at unearned white privilege as it comes up in our day-to-day life.
So, thank you. The encouragement on this stage is always terrific.
James Baldwin said at one point, “Guilt is a luxury we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it.” His words, “I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either. But I am responsible for that because I’m a man, and a citizen of this country.”
And you are responsible for it too, for the very same reason. And that is basically why we exist. So what we do during those sessions, we’re unpacking and we’re critiquing our internalized white racism. We’re acknowledging how much of it we have. We’re recovering by knowing who we are. And to continue the work of seeing where we are. And this is very discouraging work sometimes. There’s anyone in this group who doesn’t wanna run, but we keep coming. And we continue to act as white allies, accomplices. Personally, locally and at those systematic levels.
During a session here’s kind of where we go. We start with the music. That’s the joyous part. We do some welcoming, we revisit our mission and how we interact with each other. A central part of our practice is a grounding practice, which I’m gonna come back to and you will help and experience it in just a second.
We have started in the last few months honoring our white anti-racist ancestors. And been very happy that we were able to find a young man named Chris Barnett, who was a high school teacher in Oakland. Yay, Oakland. Yay teachers. He found that he could not find good materials. He couldn’t find those inspirational stories for his black and Latino kids. So he started pulling together and followed Jesus’ stories. And ultimately for indigenous people, Asian people, Black and brown. In the Black stories, you won’t be surprised to know that Cecil Williams is one of the stories.
And then in his scope for cross-cultural solidarity, he started finding the stories of white anti-racists. And he found many by the way, but one is a minister named Bob Fitch. He was a minister here at Glide with Cecil in the Sixties. When he left here, he went to Delano and joined Cesar Chavez, and was his official photographer for the rest of his life.
Those are the kind of stories that we’re now sharing with each other to inspire the work. The person who put this all together, Chris Barnett, is here with us. Chris, you want to stand up?
Very appreciative of that, of that work. For sure. So I mentioned earlier, early in every single one of our sessions, we do a grounding. It is a mindful self-compassion grounding, led by David Frederickson. This healing is so essential to our work because it requires us to turn towards the pain of racism, and our white supremacy, in causing our own, and the pain, in others.
This is our counter to the way our nervous system is wired. It’s not natural. We need leadership. We need these quiet sessions of bringing our attention inward to this work.