May is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (https://asianpacificheritage.gov/). Institutions, organizations and communities throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and, indeed, the United States, have planned commemorations, events, and activities in recognition of this month. I invite you to do a quick search online to learn more about what is happening in your community. Alongside that, I would like to draw your attention to a few opportunities:
- Pacific Islander and Asian American Ministries (PAAM), an officially recognized group within the UCC, created a special liturgy in recognition of PAAM Sunday, which was April 25. Congregations may use the liturgy on any Sunday this month. (https://paamucc.org/.../PAAM-Sunday-Easter-4B-April-25.pdf)
- Wednesday, May 5 at 7 PM – Smith College will host a virtual event titled “Not Your Model Minority: Fighting Asian-American Racism and Yellow Peril Rhetoric in COVID Time.” Dr. Jennifer Ho, professor of ethnic studies and director of the Center for the Humanities and the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder (and a Boston University graduate), will deliver this Presidential Colloquium on fighting anti-Asian racism. No registration is required. Join at http://smith.edu/.../2021-jennifer-ho-presidential...
- WGBH-TV in Boston has special programming throughout the month, including a special ticketed virtual event from 6 until 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 13, focusing on the increased violence against people of Asian descent. That conversation will be moderated by John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC. Speakers include Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins; Sovanna Pouv, Executive Director Of The Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell, Inc.; Dr. Catherine Vuky, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of Asian Mental Health Program at William James College; and Ryan Doan Nguyen, Harvard College freshman and lead organizer of Stop Asian Hate Boston Rally. (http://wgbh.org/.../asian-american-and-pacific-islander...)
This comes just weeks after the entire staff of the Southern New England Conference engaged in racial justice workshops led by Rev. Dr. Velda Love, Minister for Racial Justice at the National setting of the United Church of Christ.
We will continue to provide opportunities for the staff to engage in conversation about racial justice and to normalize the conversations such that they (and other justice issues) factor even more into all of our discussions. Most immediately, we are planning opportunities for both summer and fall during which staff members will be able to reflect on how what we have learned and discussed does, can, or should influence our work. As Rev. Dr. Love noted, our work in this regard is never done. We are forever negotiating our relationships to race and other structures of domination. We must work on those muscles as individuals and in community.
We also look forward to launching our new racial justice training modules for individual congregations and wider groups beginning this fall. We are working on several other initiatives related to racial justice and will share more as they develop. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to me to discuss your work, challenges, and thoughts as you focus on advancing racial justice.
Of course, there are many ways we can continue to learn and work as we await that time together. To facilitate that, I commend a couple of media items to you.
- "Florida Republicans Pass Voting Limits in Broad Elections Bill” – This story from The New York Times provides reporting about the new Florida bill and offers context about the bills that have been passed or introduced in states throughout the country. (http://nytimes.com/.../florida-voting-rights-bill.html)
- “James Baldwin’s Shadow” is a wonderful episode of the Throughline podcast on NPR. The hosts talk with Dr. Eddie Glade, chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, about the great artist, poet, and thinker’s ideas about the roots of American racism and our country’s need to “grow up.” This originally ran several months ago and I listened to it multiple times. When it came into my podcast feed this week, I listed again. It is one of the best, most powerful, most challenging podcasts I have ever heard recently. With the link, you may listen (which I highly recommend) or read the transcript. (npr.org/transcripts/991219491)
Blessings to you, friends. May we all be reminded that God has given us what we need to do this work to which we are called. Amid our commitment, may we find joy in our shared struggle.
Rev. Ross is the Minister for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Southern New England Conference UCC.