January 24, 2011

Sixty or more Quakers to attend 2011 White Privilege Conference

NOTE: In addition to reading about my experience at last year's conference, below, you can contact me to receive a "teaser" flyer, an FAQ sheet, and other information on how to register for the conference! Email me at lizopp AT gmail DOT com

The twelfth annual White Privilege Conference (WPC12) will be held in the Minneapolis area, April 13-16, 2011. Early indications are that as many as 60 Quakers (and presumably attenders!) may be participating, allowing Friends General Conference to work with conference organizers and local volunteers to arrange for a sizeable discount for Friends.

Regular conference rates for an individual are $315. The FGC discounted rate for Friends who go through FGC's pre-registration process, are as low as $144--because a handful of Friends and FGC staff have committed to bringing sixty or more of us there.

All of the information in the teaser and FAQs is also on FGC's website, but only as text.

By the way, there are already 15 Friends who have already pre-registered or who have indicated they are planning to attend! That's already 25% of what we are striving for, and FGC's webpage has been up only for three days!
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My 2010 Experience as a White Friend

As a Friend of European descent, I probably first heard the phrase “White privilege” in the 1990s when I was working as a sign language interpreter. One resource that was inevitably reprinted, passed out, and discussed at each diversity training that I interpreted was the essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack."

One night in April 2010, I sat listening to the remarks of the woman who wrote that seminal essay, Peggy McIntosh. She was no longer a byline beneath the title of a photocopied essay: She was an attender at the eleventh annual White Privilege Conference--and 11 Quakers from the United States, including my partner and me, attended that conference.

Whiteness and White privilege aren’t topics that most North American Quakers talk about easily, even though our meetinghouse benches and chairs are filled nearly entirely with White worshipers on First Days in Canada and the U.S. Maybe Friends don’t talk much about White privilege because we mistakenly equate it with White supremacy, but more likely it’s because we Quakers of European descent don’t see or pay any mind to the Whiteness that we live, breathe, and incarnate. Many of us at one point believed that when it came to racial and ethnic differences among us, being “colorblind” was a goal we were to pursue.

Those four April days in La Crosse, Wisconsin early in 2010, however, changed my understanding radically--that is, at the root--of what White privilege means, as well as its relation to meaningful social change. Where once I had been stymied by how to engage in anti-racism work, now I am finding my voice to raise questions of how unearned privilege has been keeping me, my meeting, and my family unintentionally engaged in reinforcing oppressive social, political, financial, and educational structures.

I am moving from being a well-intentioned bystander to becoming an engaged agitator of sorts.

Quakers and non-Quakers ask me why I went to the White Privilege Conference and why I plan to go again in 2011.

About two years ago, I realized that when it came to “walking the talk” about anti-racism work and working toward equality, I was “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk.” That’s about the same time when a long-time non-Quaker acquaintance started telling me that the White Privilege Conference (WPC) that she had been attending would be coming to my part of the country and that I ought to consider attending it.

A year later, I found out that a few Quakers of European descent had also attended, or had been thinking of attending the conference. Then, in the last half of 2009, as Jeanne and I were reviewing our end-of-the-year donations, we agreed to devote more of our resources--time, money, and energy--to addressing racism, equality, and social change. It was an opportunity for both of us to walk the walk, and we made plans to attend the conference.

We soon learned that the White Privilege Conference offered discounts for groups as small as five. I thought to myself, “How hard could it be to round up another three Quakers from the area?” Then I learned that two Quakers from a nearby meeting were also planning to attend; that would make four of us. I sent emails to Quaker friends around the U.S.--I realize now that I need to work on building more relationships with Canadian Friends!--about the conference.

Given that the year before, FGC’s Quaker Press had printed Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship, and given that FGC had a standing Committee for Ministry on Racism, I asked the organization if we could identify FGC as our “group” in order to take advantage of the discount, which was okayed.

These days when I talk about being Quaker and looking at White privilege, I explain that White privilege and racism are two sides of the same coin: Racism exists because White privilege is safe-guarded by those systems and individuals who have their hands on the reins. White privilege exists because racism is institutionalized, thereby retaining as well as passing along power and control to people of European descent.

Talking about anti-racism work quickly becomes politicized, intellectualized, and somewhat removed from our immediate circumstance as White people; but learning about White privilege as a White person becomes immediate and highly personalized. It creates a healthy cognitive dissonance for many of us of European descent: What is this THING that immediately seems to relate to who I am...?

The conference transformed my approach to anti-racism work, helping me realize that there’s a harmful way to engage my privilege, and there’s also a useful way to leverage my privilege as a White, educated, wealthy person.

For well-intentioned White Friends, the White Privilege Conference can open a door into anti-racism work that is personal, interpersonal, meaningful, systemic, and transformative. Just as Peggy McIntosh’s essay helped shift the focus in the last two decades from “diversity training” to “unlearning racism,” so too in this decade, we are shifting from “unlearning racism” to “looking at and dismantling White privilege.”

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If you are a Friend, or if you are a regular or frequent attender at Quaker worship, you can pre-register for the 2011 White Privilege Conference. After completing the pre-registration process, you will receive an email with more information about the FGC discount and how to apply it to the conference's own registration form.

DEADLINE: We are asking Friends to pre-register through FGC's process by March 7, 2011.

For more information, contact me at lizopp AT gmail DOT com, or Vanessa Julye at vanessaj AT fgcquaker DOT com.

And please do contact me if you want to receive the PDFs of the "teaser" and/or the FAQs.

January 7, 2011

Workshop with Margery Post Abbott

To Be Broken and Tender. Sitting with Hard Questions.

Talk and Workshop with Quaker author Margery Post Abbott. Supported by Ken and Katharine Jacobsen.
February 4 & 5, 2011
Minneapolis, Minnesota

The location of this workshop is still being finalized. Registration fee will be a sliding scale. Copies of Marge's book To Be Broken and Tender, will be available for purchase.


Minneapols Friends Meeting
4001 York Ave South, Minneapolis, Minnesota

SLIDING FEE SCALE: If 15 participants attend, that is an average of $38/person to cover minimal expenses. Some will likely pay less; others will likely pay more.
$0 Low income; inability to pay
$20 Suggested for people on fixed income
$38 Standard registration
$40-100 To support future workshops like this

ONLINE REGISTRATION is now available!
While this workshop is primarily for Friends in the plains and upper midwest of the U.S.--Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, e.g.--others are welcome to attend.

More details forthcoming, or send me an email at lizopp AT gmail DOT com if you wish to receive registration information directly.

Friday evening, February 4: To Be Broken and Tender
7:00-9:00 pm.
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Details TBA
Good will donations to be taken at the door.

In a talk on her new book To Be Broken and Tender, Marge Abbott will share about the strong leading she experienced to speak about the way the Spirit has been at work in her life. Her understanding of Quakerism is shaped by her efforts, as a very pragmatic, inarticulate person, to find language for a mystical opening. She found words in the writings of early Friends and found that because of her friendships with evangelical Quaker women, that she had to wrestle with the Christianity that they found so dear. Her book offers a perspective on being a Friend which grows out of long efforts to articulate who we are in a way that is true to the universal nature of Love while respecting our Christian heritage.

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Saturday, February 5:
One-day Workshop, To Be Broken and Tender
9:00 am-5:00 pm; bring your own lunch.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sliding fee TBA.

Sitting With Hard Questions.
Is the Cross obsolete dogma, harmful unwanted baggage or a living symbol of paradox at the intersection of heaven and earth? Marge Abbott and Ken Jacobsen.

Marge writes:
...I hope to make clear that I don’t use history as an entity in itself, but engaging with early Friends offers language for experience (mine and theirs), it helps me enter into the dynamics of their experience and bring it to life, and because of its biblical nature, it has helped hugely in breaking down my blocks to interacting with evangelical Friends. At this point I call myself a very unorthodox Christian if someone pushes me on this, but am not into such labels.

Preliminary Schedule for the day

8:30 Registration and settling in

9:00 Opening Worship

SESSION I. 9:15-10:45 Hard Words.
    “Taking Up the Cross” is a phrase important to early Friends. What were they trying to get at? How might we hear these words with the inner ear if our own baggage gets in the way? From these early Friends we find the thread in Christianity which seems closest to the Buddhist way of compassion and self-emptying.

SESSION II – 11:00 – 12:30 Acting from a Place of Unconditional Love.
    Marge’s spiritual ancestors have been opening her to the prospect of a way of letting love take first place, trusting that we will each be given the strength to walk into whatever situation that arises as a consequence.

12:30-1:15 LUNCH (Brown bag; bring your own lunch)

1:15 – 1:30 WORSHIP

SESSION III – 1:30-3:00 Walking With Others Who are Suffering or in Pain
    What a gift it is to be with people who can stand with us and listen to harsh things or to the depths of pain without flinching. And without trying to fix everything. This becomes even more impressive when they are willing to take action which addresses the root causes of what is wrong.

SESSION IV – 3:15–4:00 Freedom, Power, Mystery: The Cross of Joy.
    One paradox of being a Friend is what Bill Taber named the Cross of Joy. This involves many dimensions: knowing the joy and liberation which come with taking up the Cross; experiencing the Cross as the Power of God. We will engage with how we experience the Motion of Love in our lives and in our communities.

CLOSING 4:00-closing Sharing on “Where is the life and energy among us?”
    Offering our hopes as we return to our meetings.

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Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Tales (p. 171)
Joy - is the unconditional wish to live
- Aliveness more than happiness: joy is less vulnerable than happiness
- Means not with-holding ourselves because life doesn't meet our preferences
- Is lack of attachment to a particular outcome: the less attached we are to life, the more alive we become
- A willingness to accept the whole, to show up and meet whatever is there
- It is the lover drunk with the opportunity to love despite the possibility of loss
- knowing that playing is more important than winning or losing

January 1, 2011

Silence and dying

Sometimes this time of year can have a quality of silence to it... The silence of a twilight, windless snowfall, or the silence of a three-generation family gathered around a table just before the golden roast turkey is delivered from the oven to it's audience.

For me, this year in particular, I've noticed the silence of The Good Raised Up.

Blogging started for me as a way to connect with other Quaker bloggers: when their blogs were active, so was mine. (Yes, even Quakers are not immune to being codependent.) I've struggled to carve out time to write--which in turn means one of at least two things:

1. I've struggled to carve out time to reflect or

2. I've struggled to find time to dedicate to Quaker things--attend events, read Quaker writings, even attend business sessions.

To be fair--and gentle on myself--my dad has had two significant medical events occur in the past four weeks. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and three weeks later, he had a mild heart attack.

Each of us three kids are coping with the realization that we are losing our dad. There's a certain type of silence now when we are talking among ourselves that didn't exist before. Leave it to me to ask the question that pulls us into what is weighing on our hearts or drifting in our minds.

One recent conference call among us--we are spread across the country, in Boston, Minneapolis, and southern Oregon--began with my suggesting, "How about we just take a minute and share what it's been like for each of us, what our inward and outward reactions have been in the last week or so...?"

That's when I learned that out of the three of us, though we are only two years apart and I'm not the oldest, I've had the most exposure to people who I see regularly as they face end-of-life issues: sudden illness, slow, progressive illness, emergency rooms, rehabilitation after a long hospital stay, and hospice care.

Even watching my parents cope with their own immortality, I now more fully appreciate the witness that my Quaker friends have been living out--or more aptly, dying into. Aging Friends seem more willing to accept the physical limitations that their chronological age displays in their bodies and expresses through their intellect. They give up their car keys and ask for rides. They stop trying to lift the metal chairs in the meetingroom. They use the elevator in the building instead of insisting that they are steady enough on their feet to take the stairs.

And they surrender to their mortality with grace and dignity.

They're sad when they're sad, and they let their fellow Friends into a rather intimate period of their life. Rather than putting up a strong front for the sake of appearance, they come to worship and sit in a heap if they must. They welcome Friends to come to where they live, for fellowship and worship, sometimes to sing or share a meal; other times to just be, in the silence, the Great Silence, so holy...

I find I ache for the silence my parents cannot lean into at this tender time. And I pay close attention to how I wish to live into dying, when my time comes. With divine assistance.