Racial Justice Event Has Impact

10/24/2016
By Drew Page

Anne Hughes | Kimberly Eaton

HARTFORD (10/24/2016) -- Footstep of Peace, A John and Edie Murphy Music for Humanity Event and fundraiser, was held on Sunday, October 23, at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford. The 3-part event was an opportunity for participants to learn more about racial justice and support the Connecticut Conference's Racial Justice Ministries.

Organizer and singer Jolie Brocke Brown explained the event's three parts: A Sacred Conversation on Race was a way to begin the difficult conversation necessary to unmask racism; An Engagement Reception was a chance for participants to learn more about volunteering to act further; and the Footsteps of Peace concert was intended to promote "healing."

The Sacred Conversation on Race was facilitated by Anne Hughes and Kimberly Eaton.

"I am a racist," Hughes boldy pronounced at the beginning of the session. Hughes noted that because she grew up as a white woman, in a privileged home, in a privileged neighborhood, racism is part of who she is. "I'm a product of that culture."

After defining racism, setting some background, and creating a covenant to guide how the conversation would take place, Hughes and Eaton led an activity that focused on the day 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police in a park in Cleveland.

The activity separated participants into two groups – one group placing themselves in Tamir's shoes, the other imagining themselves as bystanders in the area – and asked them to concentrate on how they felt during the reading of two sensory narratives. These narratives, told from different perspectives, detailed the several minutes leading up to the moment Rice was shot.

Participants reported feelings that ranged from the joy of a young boy with a new toy to the horror and helplessness of witnessing a tragic and senseless moment. Some began to display anger or shame as well, but were guided back to a meaningful conversation by the facilitators. The activity sparked conversation that explored racism in history, institutions, politics, and the personal stories and voices from both white and brown participants.

Footsteps Concert (photo by Jack Davidson)

After a second reading of the narratives, Hughes told the group to relax and breath; they were no longer Tamir or a bystander.

"When you said 'You are no longer bystanders,' I thought immediately 'yes I am,'" said participant Kara Price after the activity. She went on to explain that she felt that she needed to learn to recognize when to act.

During the Engagement Reception, participants were given time to visit tables with information and attendants from 5 organizations where people could volunteer to act further. These organizations included the YMCA of greater Hartford, Food Share, True Colors, Habitat for Humanity, and Silver Lake Conference Center.

The final portion of the event was a Footsteps of Peace concert featuring music from Stan Satlin's "Auratorio Americana" and the East Coast premiere of Joel Thompson's "Seven Last Words of the Unarmed," performed by an interfaith chorus and soloists. The multi-movement composition entices the audience to reflection on the last words of seven unarmed black men killed between 1999 and 2014. Rev. Jack Davidson, senior pastor of Spring Glen Church in Hamden, described this piece as "probably one of the most heart-wrenching pieces of music I've ever heard."

Footsteps of Peace is a national initiative that aims to promote reconciliation and peace in communities through varying modes of music and words. It is produced by Joel Martin. More information can be found at http://www.footstepsofpeace.com.

Drew Page is the News & Media Editor of the Connecticut Conference, UCC.