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volume five number four : fall 2013

Building the Beloved Community


Tower. Wind. Fire. Two ancient stories about power and difference— one at the beginning, the other near the end (which became a beginning), after the Word rose from the dead to dwell within us.


The tower called Babel was a dream of humans for power, “so that we may make a name for ourselves” built by those who found strength in sameness, believed uniformity omnipotent. But God scattered the humans, that punishment also a blessing: giving each a gift of its own language, custom, tradition, the power of monoculture destroyed, a gaping hole in the desert.


Long time passes: war, pestilence, famine, brother, sister slaying brother, sister, slavery and greed; prisons of many kinds before God returns, human now, lynched on a cross by men afraid of his power.


Those who followed Him gathered together in one room. A violent wind, fire burning above their heads, They began to speak in other tongues (that ancient gift) they had never learned and each listener understood. “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Tower of monoculture dismantled into Pentecost.



Let that moment light the path we follow to the community of the beloved. Around us, the forest is shadowed and tangled, Night falling cold as a knife. Open your clasped hands. Look together at your palms, breathing with color, each one different. Consider what you have the courage to leave behind and what you might take up for this long journey. Be guided by those who have always had to ponder color if you have not. Those are soul makers who learned long ago how to follow the drinking gourd, chart stars through the inscrutable woods. Their hope is relentless.


To reach the beloved community you must yearn for it like water in the desert, or fire in dead winter, love it enough to offer it your life and those of your children. There is no other way.

S cripture references in italics : Gen . 1 1 : 4 , A c ts 2 : 1 1 CONSPIRE \\ 3

volume five number four : fall 2013


24 ARe you Calling me a Racist?

8 pushback

“What is white privilege, and what are we white folk supposed to do about it?”

Dee Dee Risher “The summer of 2013 thrust race back into the forefront of national consciousness.”

12 sacred spaces of difference Alexia Salvatierra

“How do we open that sacred space where true unity occurs? Here are a few warnings, a good story, and lessons on what works.”

Kristin Howerton

28 Stay

Janet Hellner-Burris “Each of us could go to a church where everyone looks like us, but we choose to stay here, together.”

18 Color Blinders Michelle Alexander

“We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

22 Connecting the Dots Michelle Alexander

“Nothing less than a radical restructuring of society can ensure justice for all.”

33 The “other” Box Jonny Rashid

“It is easier to consume diversity than it is to actually construct it.”

36 Spaces Of Danger Pam Nath

“It was one of those moments when something overwhelmingly tragic meant that life just couldn’t—or shouldn’t— carry on as normal.”

42 Culture Shift Luke Risher

“We will have to discuss race, but we need to start by learning each other’s culture.”

45 The Color of Influence

58 Talking to Our White Kids about Race Jennifer Harvey

“Why do so many white kids have such poor facility in engaging race?”

Nes Espinosa

“If we can’t address systemic racism as it has rooted itself within us, we cannot hope to help neighborhoods devastated by racism.”

48 A Scrawny Kind of Love Tobin Miller Shearer

“Knowing we are completely beloved offers a radical means to move toward unconditional love and fights the demon of perfection.”

poetry 47 Dropped Off (On the Way from Africa) James Wiggins

departments 62 Reviews

52 intimate Racial Relations Doris K. Dalton

“Asking how race and power had impacted our marriage was new territory.”

Books to carry us toward the Beloved Community

66 Notes From Scattered Pilgrims

News and photos from our conspiring communities.

Find more stories and a study guide for this issue at You’ll love our blog of word and image!



hen someone suggested the topic of race, our editorial committee immediately gave pushback. “What, exactly, is going to make people pick it up?” It wasn’t that they didn’t care about the topic. This particular committee is all persons of color who gather quarterly to discuss how our upcoming theme might play differently across race, culture, or class. Their insights often reframe the magazine. Our conversation was before summer 2013, a summer which thrust race back into the forefront of national consciousness in a big way. June brought dramatic revisions to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, followed by the stunningyet-more-of-the-same verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, and culminating in the fiftieth anniversaries of the March on Washington (with all its controversial institutionalization), and then of the Birmingham bombing that killed four girls. These last months evoked both the hope of a society healed toward beloved community and the terror of a society built on the (faulty) construct of race. Nothing in them made doing an issue on race easier. No matter how we identify racially and ethnically, every place we stand has its own demons. To be “white” is to have the luxury of not always having to think about race. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to live that way. Personally, I alternately feel smug about the work I’ve done or battle defensiveness and denial. When even a trusted friend suggests that my blindness about something might be rooted


in centuries of conditioning as a white person in a raciallycharged culture, my demon’s internal, uncensored retort is: “Are you calling me racist?” I get stuck in guilt about my privilege pass. Different demons attack my sisters and brothers of color. Internalized racism or oppression is an ugly, toxic principality which whispers lies to people about their individual and collective strengths and gifts. It fetters tongues, blames victims, sows self-hatred, and unleashes fear. Others may appear “white,” but their life experiences put them on cultural margins. White people do not exist as a monolith, but rather in various stages of assimilating identities of belonging in the dominant culture. The powers use race to divide marginalized voices. Can we have a conversation about race that speaks truly about our complex identities, in which we do not pain one another? I think that answer is: “Not yet.” Given the terrain, there are plenty of reasons for Conspire not to do an issue on race. Yet how can we follow Jesus and not dream relentlessly of justice? And how can we begin to speak about justice if we cannot speak about race, especially in the United States, where justice is so entangled with a distorted racial history? (Although the principality of race is everywhere, it looks different in other contexts.) Not to address race is to doom our work for justice, and therefore, our work to love one another. All humans carry prejudices and engage in scapegoating. Racism combines that prejudice with the power to parlay bias into systemic oppression. The system then functions to constantly benefit one racial group over and against other groups. It gives the group on top the power to define norms and reality, set standards of behavior, determine what is or is not appropriate, and access more resources of all kinds.


Racism in this country has shifted and gone underground in my lifetime. I was born in South Carolina (descendant of slaveholders) three years after the Montgomery bus boycott launched Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to prominence. By the time I reached ten, Dr. King had been assassinated. The United States moved into silent, de facto, and institutional segregation. Decades roll. Worlds mix just enough to make those who call ourselves “white” self-satisfied. Demeaning racial comments are socially frowned upon. Not-white people get sprinkled around in the white-bread culture. A few get to the top. One becomes President of the United States, and I cry with joy even though the system remains the system. I live and work in neighborhoods that are not primarily white. I put my kids through an underfunded, largely minority, urban, public school system in which few of the white, middle-class parents I know participate. (Those adjectives are all related by institutional racism.) I dream restlessly of the Beloved Community, a phrase Dr. King did not invent, but into which he breathed life. The Beloved Community is a place of belonging so deeply that equality is inherent—where community and love overcame differences; where people were no longer poor or hungry; where love and trust triumphed over fear and hatred; and where peace overpowered violence. “I do not think of political power as an end,” he wrote. “Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community.” The Beloved Community is about much more than the dismantling of racism, and yet it cannot be imagined until racism is destroyed. I hope that the pathology of race ends in my generation and aspire to make daily choices toward that end. I want us


to offer our children the gift of growing up in world where race has finally lost its power. We are beyond the stage of merely working on personal prejudices, though that is still necessary. We must now confront the next challenge: what costly individual and collective action do we take to dismantle the racism in institutions—systems of health, social services, education, legal, governmental, and ecclesial power? Author Sandra Tsing Loh says this about her struggle for true integration in our educational system: “True integration, I think, does not result from a single grand dramatic gesture… True integration evolves from daily, tiny, bridging human moments.” This issue reflects on such moments, and I deeply appreciate all the risk and gift the committee members and others gave it. It was not an easy issue to work on. It is flawed, but it is a beginning. This marks the eighteenth issue of Conspire I have pulled together, each one rich and satisfying. Other hands will edit upcoming editions (see page 7). We move from moment to moment. Sometimes I take a breath, and start to build the bridge. I am very aware that whether to build that bridge or not is for me a choice, while for others, it is necessity and survival. I make that choice (or not) every day and in a multitude of ways. I try to make the more difficult stretch, remembering that our real goal and our most precious gift is to cross the river. —Dee Dee Risher, Editor September 2013


Connecting the Dots Michelle Alexander artwork by Ricardo Levins Morales For the past several years, I have spent virtually all my working hours writing or speaking about the immorality, cruelty, racism and insanity of our nation’s latest caste system: mass incarceration. But as I reflect on the meaning and significance of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, I realize that my focus has been too narrow. Five years after the march, Dr. King was speaking out against the Vietnam War, condemning America’s militarism and imperialism—

King did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars of justice. famously stating that our nation was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” He saw the connections between the wars we wage abroad and the utter indifference we have for poor people and people of color at home. He saw the necessity of openly critiquing an economic system that will fund war and will reward greed,

hand over fist, but will not pay workers a living wage. Five years after the March on Washington, Dr. King was ignoring all those who told him to just stay in his lane, just stick to talking about civil rights. Yet here I am decades later, staying in my lane. I have not been speaking publicly about the relationship between drones abroad and the War on Drugs at home. I have not been talking about the connections between the corrupt capitalism that bails out Wall Street bankers, moves jobs overseas and forecloses on homes with zeal, all while private prisons yield high returns and expand operations into a new market: caging immigrants. I have not been connecting the dots between the NSA spying on millions of Americans, the labeling of mosques as “terrorist organizations” and the spy programs of the 1960s and 1970s—specifically the FBI and COINTELPRO programs that placed civil-rights advocates under constant surveillance, infiltrated civil-rights organizations, and assassinated racialjustice leaders. I have been staying in my lane. But no more. In my view, the most important lesson we can learn from Dr. King is not what he said at the March on Washington, but what he said and did after. In the years that

Lunch Counter : woodblock print

followed, he did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars of justice. Instead he connected the dots and committed himself to building a movement that would shake the foundations of our economic and social order, so that the dream he preached in 1963 might one day be a reality for all. He said that nothing less than “a radical restructuring of society” could possibly ensure justice and dignity for all. He was right.

I am still committed to building a movement to end mass incarceration, but I will not do it with blinders on. If all we do is end mass incarceration, this movement will not have gone nearly far enough. A new system of racial and social control will be born again, all because we did not do what King demanded we do: connect the dots between poverty, racism, militarism and materialism. I’m getting out of my lane. I hope you’re already out of yours.

Michelle Alexander is author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. A lawyer and civil-rights activist, she currently holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

Ricardo Levins Morales is an artist and activist. He works with drawing and printmaking techniques to make art that contributes to changing people’s perceptions, hearts and understandings of what has been, what is, and what is possible.

Stay Janet Hellner-Burris artwork by Joe Minter “When are you going to get off this race kick? That’s all you preach about,” hisses a Caucasian elder who corners me after a church meeting. “We’ve made the decision to stay here and be interracial. Move on!” But how do we move on without recognizing that the single greatest issue threatening the witness of our congregation and the survival of our community is racism? Our church is in an urban neighborhood in steep economic decline. Two decades prior to my arrival, Wilkinsburg was a middle-class Caucasian community supported by the steel industry—the place to shop in Pittsburgh and famous as “the city of churches.” Now our community is infamous for drugs and youth violence. Houses, businesses, and


churches are boarded up in the wake of white flight. When I was hired in 1990, this church (which had been 99 percent Caucasian and middle-class for a century) also made the courageous decision to stay in our neighborhood. But staying isn’t easy. Not only do we have to deal with gunfire outside our doors during Wednesday night Bible study; we also have to deal with the far more subtle and vicious form of violence within our church, namely racism. We can’t ignore it. Racism is destroying the community outside and within our church walls. I was baptized in Washington, D.C., at age twelve on the Sunday after Dr. Martin Luther King’s murder—a white child captured by his vision of the Beloved Community.

As I was lowered under the waters of baptism to be reconciled with God, we heard sirens scream our nation’s failure to be reconciled with each other. While the neighborhood around my church burned to the ground, I was raised not only to a life of walking with Jesus but also of walking with my brothers and sisters of color. Dr. King’s vision will not let me go, nor the nightmare of its violent alternative. I have seen with my own eyes the devastation of homes and businesses burning, tanks rolling into the city, and the blood of the young poured out in rage. I have to stay. For the first fifteen years here, Dr. King’s dream felt impossible. One African American member slammed the door on her way out. “I can’t take this white church anymore!” she screams. “As a kid, I knew I would never be picked to play Mary in the Christmas pageant because I’m black. Now I have to deal with constant, stupid, racist remarks!” I am informed that several prominent Caucasian leaders are threatening to leave shortly before we license two African American members as associate ministers. Despite a year in discernment on this important step on our journey of racial reconciliation (during which many opportunities for people to voice their feelings were provided), they were ready to bolt because we were becoming “a black church.” I made terrible mistakes as well, which I would later understand were committed out of my white

privilege. Once, I created “dialogue” groups geographically, not realizing that I had divided the church right across the color line into all-black and all-white groups. Twice, I seriously think about leaving. Several times I am offered larger, more prestigious congregations. I plead with God to release me from this call, but I never hear a clear direction to leave. So I stay. The vision will not let me go, but how do I live that vision or lead a congregation into its radical call? Five years in, I begin an intense, two-year training in pro-reconciliation and anti-racism, which gives me the language to talk about what I am experiencing. As I learn about redlining and white flight, pieces of the community’s history start to fall in place. Scales fall from my white, middle-class eyes when I receive the conviction of white privilege. My heart breaks open as I listen to stories of DWB (driving while black/brown), understand internalized racism, and confront the glaring statistics of racial disparities in every facet of life: education, employment, housing, health care, mentalhealth care, immigration, the judicial system, and the church. As I learn the language of racial reconciliation, God calls me to ask others to stand in the gap of this racial divide with me. We create a biracial task force to guide our congregation’s healing around race. Our team begins by interviewing black and white members, listening to their stories of racism, especially within CONSPIRE \\ 13

the church. We create a culture of safety where we share our experiences of racism and ask hard questions. We educate the congregation about institutional racism, racial profiling and disparities, as well as the history of racism in our nation, community, and church. We work to “love into it” those stuck in their privilege and prejudice as we marvel how Jesus can transform a heart, no matter the age. At the same time I deepen my understanding of racial reconciliation, I am also deepening my contemplative prayer life. At first, I see these inward and outward journeys as equal-but-separate calls upon my heart, for I am a product of the institutional church which has separated the Prayer and Spiritual Life Committee from the Mission and Social Justice Committee. Yet as I mature on both journeys, I realize that the strength in both lies at their intersection. 14 // CONSPIRE

Through my contemplative prayer practices, I listen deeply with an open and broken heart to the anger on both sides of the racial divide. Prayer enables me to return love for hate. Through prayer, I am humbled enough to ask publicly for forgiveness when my white privilege rears its ugly head. Through deep listening, I am urged to go after the sheep that are lost in racial prejudice long after others have given up on them. In the silence of retreats, I stop focusing on the overwhelming struggle and start celebrating the small victories, such as the transformation of an older, formerly self-proclaimed racist Caucasian member who welcomed our African American ministers to bring him communion in the nursing home at the end of his life. Most of all, it is in the silence that I hear the next step on our journey of racial reconciliation, for there is no blueprint for building the Beloved

Community. There are no road maps, manuals, or masters to guide this work of transformation. I teach contemplative practices to the congregation, so we can grow not only closer to God, but to each other in the full reconciliation of the cross. As we listen together for the still, small voice of God, the holy word agape becomes our North Star. It leads us step by step to choose love over fear. Recently I sat on the beach of a sparkling mountain lake where youth of the congregation were splashing and squealing in delight. African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic kids were having a ball, no sign of the great American racial divide in sight. Their joy was so contagious that other children at this all-white rural park joined in. A Caucasian member who has been on this long journey of twenty-three years leaned over to whisper, “It is all worth it. When you look at this scene, you know that our journey of racial reconciliation is

worth it. Thanks for sticking it out, Pastor. Thanks for staying.” Thank you for staying. Thank each one of us for staying. Our journey of racial reconciliation is now at the heart of our identity as a family of faith. Each Sunday, as ministers and church members drive or walk to church, we pass many all-black or all-white churches doing wonderful ministry. Each of us could go to a church where everyone looks like us, but we choose to stay here, together. Despite the wounds and the hard work, we stay for the sake of the children, our community, our nation, and the world God so loves. We stay because we have tasted the infectious joy and transformations won in Dr. King’s Beloved Community. We stay because Jesus calls us to stay. Janet Hellner-Burris lives at the crossroads of contemplative prayer and social action as the pastor of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a wife, mother, sister, writer, photographer, and grassroots organizer for peace. Joe Minter is an artist and prophet in Birmingham, Alabama. He uses discarded items to build his African Village, a place full of sculptures representing the experience of African descendents and their four-hundred-year journey in America. He uses his art to tell a message of God­—love and peace to all.


The Color of Influence Nes Espinosa artwork by Michael Guess

While shopping recently, my ten-year-old daughter began talking with a kind woman in the checkout line. Afterwards, she commented: “That lady we met was a Christian.” The woman had not mentioned Jesus, church, or Christianity, so I asked her why. “Because she is white.” I was appalled and puzzled. Our family is biracial. I am a Latino minister; my wife Dana is white; and we attend congregations that have black and Latino pastors and leaders. The church is our life, and its form in our lives is quite diverse. Where would my perceptive daughter get this idea? I can only assume white Christians have impacted her in a way that she puts a color on it, while the leaders of color around her have not impressed her or created the feeling of true racial diversity. It’s wrong, but she doesn’t know any better. Yet I, too, once knew no better. I grew up (and still live) in Philadelphia’s “Badlands”—a predominately Puerto Rican neighborhood with the lowest per capita income in my city. Its lack of resources, education, and high crime make it untitled : ink on paper

a mission field for outsiders. I was heavily influenced by these (white) Christian missionaries to our neighborhood. I now see how the support of the white leadership by outside groups undermined the power and credibility of our neighborhood’s indigenous leadership. Influence—the power to affect people and events—is acquired and taught. Growing up, I instinctively gave white leaders power and influence, whether or not they earned it.

white leadership undermined the power and credibility of our neighborhood’s leadership. Those white leaders changed my life. They are friends whom I love. But the reality is that they were only given that influence because they were white, and not brown like me. White leaders have influence. CONSPIRE \\ 17

Indigenous leaders from the neighborhood do not. Like my daughter, I connected Christianity with white people. The first time a white person told me they were not a Christian, I was

The perception of “white is right” by locals strips power from the indigenous leaders shocked! I was young and ignorant, but that was my reality. My unconscious identification of Christianity with “white” taught me this: A lack of resources and education will reinforce a lack of diversity. I have been in ministry for almost twenty years as a brown man. It’s tough. Glass ceilings stop me at “youth minister.” My family and I live, love, and grow our family in my struggling neighborhood, choosing to live incarnationally in the way of

Nes Espinosa lives in Philly with his wife and three kids. He is the field director of Teen Haven, commissioner of Timoteo Football, and serves on Conspire’s editorial team.

Jesus. White people are glorified for making that sacrifice, but people in my community look down on me because I haven’t “made it out.” My master’s degree means nothing here. The perception of “white is right” by locals strips power from the indigenous leaders who actually better understand the community issues and its possibilities, and who often have more appropriate solutions for change than white leadership. The ability to gain influence in my community will always be a struggle—with my neighbors, with funding institutions, and with my white peers. Yet because this distortion once held me captive, I know it well. We can never impact our neighborhoods if, at a subconscious level, we undermine our own perception of our powers and gifts as local brown leaders. Until we talk honestly about how white privilege undermines local leadership, we can’t move forward. If we can’t address systemic racism as it has rooted itself within us, we cannot hope to help neighborhoods devastated by racism. Voices of indigenous leaders will continue to be unheard.

Michael Guess studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and lived in Philadelphia for nineteen years. He now lives with his wife and four children at Jubilee Partners in Comer, Georgia.

James Wiggins, Jr. is a prolific poet based in Philadelphia. He is inspired to write by what he sees in life as well as by Scripture. “For by God, we have life, and move, and exist, and as some of your poets have said, ‘We are God’s offspring.’ ” (Acts 17:28).


Dropped Off (On the Way from Africa) A long way from home, But never made it back there, Couldn’t get back. Didn’t have any money to call, Or transportation, But I was with family, Uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. A long way from home, And was dropped off, In the islands: Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, West Indies. Mexico, South and North America, Europe, There are so many That even though far from home, Even though we lost so many along the way, Born in Africa or not, Africa was born in me.

James Wiggins


Ta l k i n g t o O u r w h i t e K i d s about Race Jennifer Harvey photograph by Emily Smith

I vote that parents of white children strike these two phrases from our parental lexicon: “Everybody is equal,” and “We’re all the same underneath our skin.” These statements are meaningless when handed to seven- (or even seventeen-) year-olds. They are stand-ins for the actual conversations about race, racial difference, and racism we need to be having with our kids. Sugar when our kids need protein. I ask my college students to write a racial autobiography. The assignment is fairly straightforward: “Describe the impact of racial identity in your life—not race generally, but your race. Discuss significant experiences, teachings, and thoughts pertaining to that identity at various life stages.” Time and again, my white students write that the most important thing their parents taught them about race was that “everybody is equal.” 20 // CONSPIRE

A significant number then proceed to describe their present trepidation about a) telling their parents they date interracially; b) bringing home a Latino/a or Black classmate; c) attending family gatherings where everyone silently tolerates the family member who makes racist comments; or d) something else that reveals how clearly these students know this

our kids don’t know what “everybody is equal” means. It’s an empty phrase. “most important teaching” doesn’t impact their actual white experience. Few even notice the contradiction they have described in the space of only a few pages. Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, helped me

make sense of these papers. It reports on why so many white kids have such poor facility in engaging racial difference and challenging racism despite their exposure to (liberal-ish)

We help our kids navigate relationships, sexuality, religion, emotions, or other challenging realities. Why should race be any different?

white culture’s “everybody is equal” mantras. Turns out our kids, literally, don’t know what “everybody is equal” means. It’s an empty phrase. Meanwhile, they are daily assailed by a relentless barrage of anti-Black imagery, Native American stereotypes, and slurs against dark-skinned, nonnative English speakers. Our happy equality and shared-humanity platitudes just don’t stand a chance. It’s sort of like putting your kid in front of a thirty-minute television show. The first twenty-eight minutes show children bullying and treating each other like crap. The last two resolve into a nice, moral lesson on kindness. Guess which part of the 22 // CONSPIRE

show kids absorb and imitate? I know “everybody’s equal” means “we all deserve to be treated with fairness.” And when we tell kids we’re all the same underneath skin, gender, sexuality, physical abilities, and other differences we’re trying to tell them we share human dignity and worth. Obviously I believe these things. But, have you ever actually met a “generic” human without a race or a gender? Neither has your child. On average, African American parents start talking about race with their African American children by age three. White parents with white kids start that conversation at age thirteen. Is it any wonder my white students are so racially baffled and behind? That they look like deer in headlights when I tell them we’re going to talk about race in their actual lives? It’s not just the fact of being white, and thus insulated from the negative effects of racism, which works against their developing aptitude about race and anti-racism. We, their parents, work against them too! Imagine what happens in my classes when students of color describe their experiences of racism, and their white peers repeat platitudes like “everybody is equal” or “we’re all the same underneath”? The interchange neither inspires robust interracial friendships or gives students of color any reason to think they’ve found allies to build a more just racial future. If your four-year-old starts to notice darker skin (which happens

when we raise our kids in predominantly white environments), the platitude “we’re all the same underneath” implies they’re noticing something they shouldn’t and insinuates there’s something wrong with darker skin. Meanwhile, your child hears remarks about beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair constantly. How about discussion and images of the many different beautiful shades of dark skin instead? If your eight-year-old describes a racially-tinged encounter at school and your response is “everybody’s equal,” you’ve offered your child a passive belief instead of the active, imaginative, strategic thinking about an empowered action. She needs your specific response: “How did you feel when that happened? What do you want to do if it happens again? How can I support you in trying that?” I don’t have a list of pat answers on what we should be saying, and that is my point. We don’t assume pat answers are adequate for enabling our children to learn to navigate relationships, sexuality, religion, emotions, or any other challenging reality. Nor do we leave them alone to figure it out. We equip ourselves so we can empower them in these complexities.

Why should race and racism be any different? We may resort to pat answers because our children’s questions and observations make us uncomfortable. They launch us into terrain we haven’t learned to navigate. Yet we are willing to work through discomfort in so many areas parenting springs on us. Race should be no different. Imagine the conversations that had to take place between parents and their Black or Latino/a children after Trayvon Martin was killed and Zimmerman walked. I’d be willing to bet that pat answers were nowhere in sight. This thought experiment shows the standard and caliber of conversations required of us. If we want our white children to live in a world with more racial justice than the one we live in now, we need to figure out how to have conversations with them as real, thick, painful, resilient, strategic, and authentic as the conversations those parents had to have. Only then can our kids help build that world. We love our kids—and all kids— too much not to figure this out.

Jennifer Harvey is an educator, activist, and ordained American Baptist minister. Her books include Disrupting White Supremacy from Within and Whiteness Morality. In addition to contributing regularly to Huffington Post and Feminist Studies in Religion, she blogs at


Notes from Scattered Pilgrims: News from our Conspiring Communities

The heart of Conspire are the communities and groups who sustain us. Here, our coconspirers share what’s happening on the ground—many stories of redemption. For contact information and description of each community’s mission and activities, check out their websites. Then go to and join our conspiracy of goodness so you can connect here as well! Castanea Nashville, TN We are so close to being finished— painting walls, laying tile, and (still) raising funds in our efforts to transform a former crackhouse into an affordable ecological housing venture. Pray for trust and peace in God’s provision as we barrel toward the cliff. Learn more by visiting in person, or check our uncharacteristically active Facebook page.


Chicago Catholic Worker Chicago, IL We are harvesting fall crops, preparing the Monee Farm for the winter, and caring for our quirky, loud chickens. We continue our work at the shelter, hosting our friends for delicious meals and challenging conversations, and we vigil weekly for the release of the men imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. We are actively looking for people to join our communities. Please email if you are interested. See you soon!

photo from The Simple Way’s rainy yet successful school supplies event in September.

Common Change Oakland, CA We’ve recently been doing a lot of work on the Common Change platform and user interface and are excited to roll these changes out in the next couple of weeks. Keep an eye out! We are thrilled to have new groups in Maryland, Texas, Minnesota, Washington, D.C., California, and even Glasgow, Scotland. We look forward to welcoming new groups soon from the Netherlands and Costa Rica. Talk with us about starting your own collaborative-giving group or join an existing group to learn how it all works. Dathouse Indianapolis, IN This season has been ripe for us! One family added a new member, Zion, making four children total. We moved a family into the second house in our affordable housing program. We had a young man from the neighborhood intern with us, and after a hard season of waiting on the community center, we’re finally making progress! Praise God! newest member of Dathouse, baby Zion

Detroit Villages Detroit, MI We are excited to announce Foundry House, a new place for hospitality shared among the Detroit Villages and partner ministries. It provides short and longer-term accommodations for visitors, room for one to fifteen people, with kitchen and laundry facilities. This is a great place for those interested in experiencing the city and the intentional communities that call Motown their home. More info at

Faith and Justice Scholars Jefferson City, TN

The inaugural class of Faith & Justice scholars has arrived in east Tennessee! This fall, Carson-Newman University welcomed seven freshmen into a new program of scholarship and service, exploring and living out the intersection of faith and justice. We can’t wait to see how God works in the midst of this group, the program, and our community! CONSPIRE \\ 25

First United Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights Pittsburgh, PA We are beginning a new season of loving our neighbors in the city by offering after-school nurture and homework help for elementary students four days a week. We had our annual community retreat in October. Pray for new mentoring programs for teen boys and teen girls. In November, we celebrate twenty years of shared ministry between Pastor Dave Carver and this congregation. Hyaets Community Charlotte, NC We are doing a little farming now, with the help of new and old community members, and expect to have lots of fresh food to share with neighbors and with one another. We are also excited about several new interns who


joined us this fall, and another former intern who is in the process of joining the community long-term. Jubilee Partners Comer, GA We’ve got two apprentices, Leah Rittenhouse and Scott Kempf, as well as a new novice, Zac Cooke. Since the summer, we’ve enjoyed hosting families from Central African Republic, Congo, and Burma. photo from Jubillee’s end-of-the-summer BBQ

This mural was painted on Salem Church across from The Book Parlor this summer by Kellan Day and many friends

San Rafael First UMC San Rafael, CA We have begun to interact with our neighbors in a more intentional way, including putting up a community bulletin board, a prayer box, a free library, and offering sustainable community workshops. So far, we have made pasta, baked vegan bagels and cookies, and made laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. The response has been very positive, in contrast to the friction that has been evident between us and our neighbors during homeless dinners and in shelters we have housed at the church.

of the epic party on our website. We also welcomed Erin Schultz to our growing staff, and are thrilled to be doing this work together.

The Simple Way Philadelphia, PA We are committed to loving and walking alongside the kids in our neighborhood. Those attending public schools in Philly need our support more than ever! In spite of city-wide budget cuts and school closures, we celebrated the start of the school year by handing out school bags stuffed with supplies to six hundred kids! Be sure to check out photos and videos Juggling at The Simple Way’s school supply giveaway day

Photos from East Central Ministries food co-op in Albuquerque, NM.


The Vine Haverhill, MA We’ve been figuring out new ways to pour ourselves out for God, each other, and our community. This fall, one of our branches, Urban Kindness, spent a lot of time loving on the Mount Washington neighborhood, reclaiming overgrown planters, creating a community garden, picking up trash, and helping a new kind of community emerge in the neighborhood. We just celebrated our harvest festival with fresh veggies from the garden. Another branch, heARTs alive, partnered with the local homeless shelters to provide free family portraits to the residents. We’re looking ahead to Christmas and the ways that we can bless the people of our city.

Reclaiming the Mount Washington neighborhood in Haverhill, MA

Alterna LaGrange, GA

Come Together Canton, TX

Alternative Seminary Philadelphia, PA

Community of Faith Church Fallbrook, CA

Anthony’s Plot Winston-Salem, NC

Compost Boulder, CO

Associated Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary Elkhart, IN

DC Area Community of Communities Washington, DC

Blaine St. Community Detroit, MI

East Central Ministries Albuquerque, NM

Camden Community Houses Camden, NJ Centurion’s Guild Honolulu, HI Church of the Sojourners San Francisco, CA


Eastern University St. Davids, PA Georgetown College Campus Ministry Georgetown, KY

Tierra Nueva Skagit Valley, WA Summer was full of activity in the fields of Skagit Valley. Our berry farmworker friends have been on strike, advocating for higher wages and better living conditions. Besides many meetings and visits to the migrant camps, we’ve been ardently interceding for peace in the struggle. We are looking for a volunteer coordinator for New Earth Farm. Our vision for the farm is to be a place where marginalized people, including youth from juvenile detention, can have meaningful work, learning farming as they connect to Jesus. Farming experience is less important than ability to work with people and manage the human resource aspect of the farm.

Rutba House/School for Conversion Durham, NC The community at Rutba House is excited about building a new house in Walltown this fall. School for Conversion is gearing up for our 21stCentury Freedom Ride, Dec 14-18 2013. To learn more about this effort to build up a new world, visit

The guys who run Tierra Nueva’s “Underground Coffee Project.” back row: Jude, Chris, Omy front row: head roaster, Zach. Read about the project and order coffee:

Grace Community Church Maryborough, Queensland, Australia

ReIMAGINE! San Francisco, CA

Jubilee Food Pantry Hubbard, OR

Sacramento Conspirators Sacramento, CA

Likewise Books Westmont, IL Mercy Station Anderson, AL Missio Dei Community St. Petersburg, FL Mulberry House Springfield, OH Nehemiah Ministries Springfield, MA Reba Place/Shalom Mission Communities Evanston, IL

SAC at Iliff Denver, CO Salado United Methodist Church Salado, TX Servants Vancouver Vancouver, BC Solomon’s Porch Minneapolis, MN The Book Parlor Spokane, WA The GAPS Community Downey, CA The Vine Haverhill, MA United Church of Milton Fairfax, VT



You must find your own foothold on the path. You cannot borrow courage or wisdom. Learn it through fire and wind; make it as you walk. You will hear the singing first. A final climb, and you will see the holy city, the great river and the tree of life, bearing fruits every season. “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”


I saw “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne… There will be no more night. Now the dwelling of God is with humans; God will live with them; they will be God’s people. God will wipe every tear from their eyes. “Behold, I am making everything new.” Behold. Look. Listen. You can hear the singing.

S c rip tu re references in italics : Rev. 22:2 , R ev. 7 : 9 , R ev. 2CONSPIRE \\ 31 1:5

Race / Fall 2013  

This issue explores the fragmented, human territory of racism and the gift of living into our full diversity. The content addresses the hard...

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