Wednesday, December 16, 2015

January Events

January Founder's Donation Event will be in: 
Berwick at Berwick Brewing
Thursday January 21, 5:00-6:30pm  

Join us for refreshments at Berwick Brewing, and learn more about Undoing Racism(TM) workshops, provided by The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond out of New Orleans. Join 500,000 other community leaders from hospitals, justice departments, social work, education, and more, in understanding what racism is, how it was constructed, and how we can deconstruct it in our communities. $15 donation goes toward paying for Undoing Racism(TM) training in our region.

Meet Up! 
Saturday, January 9th
10am-11am Degenstein Library
2nd Fl. Conference Room
Sunbury, PA

Friday, December 4, 2015

December Events & Experience taking Undoing Racism (TM) Training

December's Founder's Donation Event was in Selinsgrove.
We raised: $0
Number of participants: 0
Total average donation per person: 0

Meet up participants in Lewisburg- 1

Events in Lewisburg and Selinsgrove were not well attended.

One person came to the Meet-up at the Cherry Alley Cafe in Lewisburg.  I have spent many hours in Lewisburg with various organizations, all with interest in the training-- and a couple of people have actually taken the training. I was hoping to see some active involvement to continue 'The Conversation About White Racism' and compare that chart with the continuum provided by The People's Institute, which I distributed to many community activists/leaders in the Lewisburg area, who have expressed interest in supporting Undoing Racism (TM) in the Valley.

The one participant and I spent most of our time at the Cherry Alley Cafe talking about what Undoing Racism (TM) is and the dynamics of Internalized Oppression- which has two sub-categories, according to The People's Institute's training-- Internalized Superiority, and Internalized Inferiority. Ronald Chisolm, a founder of The Institute, explains this a bit in this video linked to the About page. I did not understand what he was talking about in the video, until I took the training.

Defining Racism:
The guest that attended the Meet-up was black, and we started by talking about our cultural definition of racism-- one group disliking another because of their skin color-- and, she added-- black people are racist too. "How do white people at these meetings define racism?" she aksed. The same way, I said-- hate against people with different skin color, and, someone invariably adds- black people are racist too.

"We need to get together and talk to see how similar we are," said the participant. This statement has come up very often in my conversations with people. Not that we need to get together and talk about racism- but just get together- around food is often a suggestion- just to get to experience each other's common humanity.

I have been cautioned by another, in a social media conversation, that no matter how close we get (black and white) there will always be a separation as long as some are afforded favoritism, and some are not afforded equality and justice.

Another definition of racism:
 One new thing that I picked up from the training was The People's Institute's 'working definition' of racism-- which is: Race Prejudice + POWER. That is positive or negative prejudice + the power to make an impact on another's life with that prejudice. I often use the definition-- "Power elements or structures that favor one race over another."

The oppression of racism is not exclusive to explicit hate, discrimination, or prejudice.

Why are people poor, and poor community power analysis: 
One of the most powerful parts of the Undoing Racism (TM) workshop was the exercise "why people are poor" and the power analysis of poor communities. The trainers asked people 'why are people poor?' and they made two lists-- one of biases (i.e. lazy), and one of structural barriers (i.e. no child care). Then the trainers asked participants to map a poor community, and the institutions that serve it. The take away was that many social service agencies (who have significant power to affect clients lives) may not serve the communities they are connected with, but simply operate in them.

Are people in poor communities getting the help they need, or are they being funneled from one program into the next as a function of social service bureaucracy? Are resources even going to the needy? Are institutional leaders making decisions influenced by racial bias? Are citizens victimized by invasive and punitive rules and regulations, or do they have institutional support? 

If services are not balanced with citizens actual needs, dis-empowerment and dependency may be the end result-- instead of empowerment, and positive life changes.

Where are our local institutions on the continuum?
We did look at the continuum from the People's Institute that maps institution's movement from racist to anti-racist and multi-cultural. The perspective from the participant was that our local institutions are geared toward white culture because our institutions are mostly white, and that the attitude of 'others' may be that there aren't that many of them, so why try to influence things? We both agreed that multi-cultural societies need multi-cultural leadership.

My perspective is that leadership does not need to be proportional- all members should have a path to a meaningful role in shaping community structure. Everyone has something to give, and we don't know what we are missing when we exclude people from leadership. From my perspective, white people often block 'others' out of equal participation and meaningful roles either by in-group favoritism, or simply by being resistant to someone new.

Unfortunately, in our country, we are in a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to pubic participation- barely anyone tries to have a voice in their communities (black, white, or otherwise), and when they do, they are often bullied 'back in their place' by those who dominate public positions- which discourages participation.

May the People, Can the People, Will the People Lead?
I see a correlation between this Catch-22, and The People's Institute's hypothesis of Internalized Superiority and Internalized Inferiority- and though it plays out racially, it also plays out in general, socially. Citizens who are not used to having the privilege of power- whether it be education, money, looks etc. feel dis-empowered and are easily blocked by those who are comfortable wielding power.

In the context of racism a dizzying, ridiculous effect takes place: neither white nor black folks get past in-group drama to focus on the actual problems of racism. Time is spent fighting about who is crowned the dominant leader, instead of how to cooperate to solve problems. I have definitely experienced this recently with activists who are excited about this training, but who have spent more effort to try and stop my work, than focus on how we can work together toward solutions. Drama cannot be the focus, or we will continue to get nowhere addressing the very real threats of racism in our communities.

We can solve this
Community leaders have an onus to provide accepting spaces for public voices; clear instructions on the channels citizens may use to play meaningful roles in community decision making; welcome all cultural persuasions; and listen with seriousness when grievances are raised. The public have an onus to be active citizens, and to hold leaders accountable for policies and decision making. I do believe that Undoing Racism (TM) training can be used as a tool toward these ends.

"Focusing on people as causes of evil then exonerates social structures and political decision making for contributing to underlying conditions that foster evil:
poverty, racism, sexism and elitism."-Philip Zimbardo

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Upcoming December Events

December's Founder's Donation Event will be in: 
Selinsgrove at Emma's Food For Life
Thursday, December 3rd 7-8:30pm 
Enjoy the best cakes (really, my favorite confections!) made by Emma, and your choice beverage. $8 goes to Undoing Racism
® training, and $7 goes to your local business, Emma's Food For Life!

Meet Up! 
Tuesday Dec. 1st 2-3pm
Cherry Alley Cafe- Lewisburg
Let's continue the conversation about what racism is, and how we can move ourselves from racist, to justice. We will be comparing the chart from 'The White Conversation About Racism' and the Continuum provided by the Undoing Racism® workshop. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tabling at the Susquehanna Valley Progressives Networking Event

I was glad to have been invited to the Susquehanna Valley Progressives networking event this past Sunday. They had great speakers, and it was good to see some leaders from our area, and the projects they are dedicated to.

Donations for the night: $40
Thank you, donors!

I made some great contacts, and look forward to sharing my experience and work with new connections.

I put up a poster to get people's ideas and experiences around "The Conversation About White Racism" that mimicked this chart of my experiences with how the conversation goes. The idea is to get a grip on how to move people from explicit racism to equalty/freedom/justice, authentic relationships, civility, and a shared American identity.

I shared my work on a letter size paper next to the empty chart on the poster board. Contributions to the poster at the event provided -- privilege, fear, and us vs. them, in the negative area; and tolerance as one goal.

I do think these contributions are reflective of the way we have historically approached the issue of racism. Fear, and us vs. them, are base human reactions to things unfamiliar or threatening to us. Tolerance is a base line for civil actions with one another, and has been an American value -- though 9-11, the recession, and political messaging is encouraging more and more intolerance.

What is new, is the idea of privilege. The presence of this term on the board shows the changing terms around issues of racism, and the power new terms have to re-frame the conversation.

When I interviewed Diana Dunn, a year ago, one (of many) things she said to me stood out:

“If we can talk the same language, we get better outcomes, because we have more brain power to solve problems"

So here are some key definitions:
Racism- a power element or structure that favors one race over another. 
Structural Racism- community or societal structures that favor one race
White Privilege-  benefits for 'white' people in societies that favor white complexions
Discrimination- consideration of others based on group identity rather than individual merit
Bigotry- intolerance toward those who have different opinions than oneself 

As a mostly white community, we have not really had to reflect on how to manage diversity, or think about how we identify with racism, but I come to understand again, and again, is that people in our region care greatly about ensuring equity, justice, and healthy, inclusive communities- and are willing to learn, and do the work, to get there.

Join me at a Meet Up, which I have once a month, to add your voice and ideas to The Conversation About White Racism, and to continue to build understanding of how we can transition our conversations around racism from negative to positive.

The next Meet Up will be Tuesday, Dec 1st, at 2pm in Lewisburg, at the Cherry Alley Cafe.

We still have much to do to understand the work ahead of us, as individuals, and as a community, but I have no doubt, that with a little help from those dedicated to equity, and from those outside our community who have already dealt successfully with this issue, we will continue to build healthy, diverse communities in the Valley.

Let us not forget, as well, the wise words of Philip Zimbardo:

"Focusing on people as causes of evil then exonerates social structures and political decision making for contributing to underlying conditions that foster evil:
poverty, racism, sexism and elitism."-Philip Zimbardo

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sunbury Founder's Donation Event- Diverse Voices Matter

November's Founder's Donation Event was in Sunbury.
We raised: $30
Number of participants: 2
Total average donation per person:  $15

Sunbury is a magnetic place, with many treasures: a great new central park, and riverfront, boating areas, great parks for the kids, amazing big historic houses and buildings. It is the home to Weis, Fort Augusta, the Marina, Packer Island, the Hotel Edison, the YMCA Arts Center, and Spyglass Ridge Winery.

It is hard to not notice the changes taking place in Sunbury, from the greening of the city, to citizen empowerment efforts, and business development. Diversity is also a clear change in the city- and as the Daily Item has always reminded us- diversity is a great asset.

The question is, are community leaders, and citizen activists thinking about how to grow the city with diversity in mind? If not managed well, diversity can turn into a liability.

If we think about diversity in the asset/liability context, we can see that our Country's race problems have hung in this balance since our inception, and throughout our history, which is why we have a debt in non white education, housing, leadership, justice, and economy.

At the Sunbury Founder's Donation Event I talked with participants about what I see as some key elements of Sunbury's community building and asked- "Are the doors open in these efforts for diverse members in the community to play meaningful roles?"

The key characteristics I highlighted, along some of the respective institutions that match them were:

Creating a Positive Identity (Historical Society, YMCA, SRI, business leaders, neighborhood
                                              groups, the Arts)

Citizen Engagement (SRI, Sunbury American paper, United Way Impact Councils)

Green Space (city officials, SRI, YMCA, citizen groups)

Creating an environment for business growth (SRI, city officials)

The Arts (YMCA, SRI, local citizens, Spyglass Ridge, businesses)

Paths to a voice for citizens (Sunbury American paper, United Way Impact Councils)

Diversity (Citizens, Business owners)

Are City officials, local businesses, schools, local papers, judicial systems, arts communities, business creators, and city planners making diversity part of their action plans? Are there paths for diverse voices, and leadership opportunities? If there is a path, are the gates open, or are they closed to meaningful roles for diverse members?

Here are some anecdotes I gathered from the community regarding diversity:

'This is really two towns- one of people who have lived here a long time, and one of the other people.'

Some businesses see the value in diversity and have expanded markets- like Weis (who has an amazing Spanish section, and expanded categories of black American products) and the Runners Roost (who boosted sales by simply putting a sign up in their window saying, 'Welcome' in Chinese, and describing their wares).

Two violent incidents have ended in prison time for black Americans in Sunbury recently: One, a black citizen was called a 'Nigger' and chased down the taunter with an unloaded BB gun to scare him. That young black man is in prison. In another incident- which has a very confused story- a black man was kicked out of a bar, later seen being chased by two other white men, who he had been fighting with in the bar. In the end the two white men had him down on the ground, and the black man stabbed them. The men were in critical condition, and the yound black man is in jail. In a recent hearing, a new narrative in the prosecution evolved claiming the black man is a leader in the Bloods gang.

Unprovoked, a black/hispanic man was hit in the head with a beer bottle and told to 'get out of here.'

A group of kids yelled 'Nigger' from their car, to a black female citizen walking down the street

A local business has a sign in Chinese reading "keep out"

Another business has a sign in their window berating the pants below the boxers fashion of black citizens. It is fair to have a sign asking to keep underclothes under your clothes- it is not to berate a single group in the community.

A Hispanic man was repeatedly arrested in Sunbury when I lived there a decade ago, for fishing off of the dam. He did not speak english and had no idea what he was being arrested for, but was arrested over and over again. At that time there was no interpreter to help the police- now, as I understand it, there is one shared interpreter for many departments.

Two simple solutions to curbing negative effects of diversity mismanagement, is having leaders model positive behavior, and provide positive messaging- shining a light on the benefits of Sunbury's diversity, and making new community members feel welcome and part of the city.

Diversity really is not new to the area. Diversity is as American as apple pie, frankfurters, Mrs. T's, pizza, chili, Ramen noodles, burritos, corn, and fried chicken. 

Here's another anecdote from my step father-in-law, who grew up in Trevorton- his family spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, and another segment of the community spoke Italian. When families were in the grocery together, they would always think the 'other' was talking about them, because they did not understand what the 'others' were saying. Now, they probably were just talking about bread, or what have you, but this is the kind of misunderstanding that, if not managed with good leadership, can lead to conflict, and violence.

Positive identity matters. Not just of those who have lived here a long time, and, like other rust belt communities feel as though the good times are in the past, but for new members of the community as well. If we have confidence in who we are, it is easier to identify and share what is great about ourselves and our community.

Leadership matters, community structure matters. Including diversity in action plans matters. Opening doors and creating paths for diverse voices matter.

Undoing Racism (TM) training is an effective tool to create action plans with diversity in mind. Steps can be as simple as making room, and opening doors.

The benefits of diversity are clear: increased civic engagement, increased critical thinking in schools, increase innovation, and performance and profits for businesses. Sunbury is a key location for business investment, and a diverse citizenry is a big part of that designation-but investors will ask- is how is diversity managed? Is it an asset, or liability?

I'll end with some statistics (check out the links below for sources):

Diverse businesses are 35% more likely to outperform competitors
Diverse businesses are 70% more likely to capture new markets
Every 1% increase in ethnic diversity correlates to a 9% increase in revenue
40% of citizens under 25 are not white
Business performance increases 80% in teams with high diversity levels
Discrimination costs $64 Billion a year in the US

"To succeed in this increasingly diverse environment, American businesses must select leaders who possess cross-cultural competence-the experiences of, and capacity to interact with- and understand the experiences of- a multiplicity of perspectives held by, persons of different races, ethnicities, and cultural histories." GM 

Sunbury's citizens are diverse. Whether our children's experiences with diversity in Sunbury will create criminals, or creators, depends on leadership, and community structure. Let's Undo Racism (TM) for a more prosperous future! Keep in touch for opportunities to engage in fundraising and training events as they come to the area.

Thank you to those who came out to the Sunbury Founder's Donation Event. If you would like me to visit your business or group, contact me: 



Benefits of Diversity

Monday, November 2, 2015

Upcoming Events in Sunbury and Northumberland

Greetings! Happy Fall!

Come out this week to celebrate Sunbury at the Sunbury Founder's Donation Event, and join an informal talk on Sunday at 2pm at the Front Street Station in Northumberland.

Sunbury is changing in more ways that one- and a diversifying citizenry is not the least of them! From greening the downtown, to citizen engagement, to new business development, Sunbury is on the forefront of of change in our region.

Where does diversity fit into this unique position in the Valley? Diversity is the key to many of the advantages Sunbury has over other communities in our region. Not sure how? Come find out: Nov. 4th from 7-9 at the Hotel Edison. Refreshments provided. $15 min. donation. The event is free for police and elected officials.

On Sunday, I will be hosting an informal discussion at the Front Street Station in Northumberland from 2-3:30, grab a snack or drink, and add to the conversation about what racism is, and how our area grapples with issues around racism.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Another chance to talk about who we are, race, and identity in rural PA

Shiloh Church, in Danville, invited me back to lead their Sunday School program this past Sunday. Shiloh has been working on open and affirming messages, and teachings. I think their hard conversations around that theme made the discussion rich, and ripe for tackling issues of racism.

I want to thank The Sunset Rotary, Sam Pearson, Carmen Henne-Ochoa, and Pastor Mary for giving me feedback on my original talk, and message.

John Kador, and the Rotary encouraged me to make my message more personal. Sam and Carmen encouraged me to focus more on white privilege. Pastor Mary requested I include definitions, and Pastor Mary and John suggested making the talk more interactive, including open ended questions about racism. I also want to mention Dave Young, of the ACLU, and John Kador, for originally suggesting that I use open-ended questions, and an interactive format. 

I took all of these suggestions, and I think all this feedback made a much better talk. 

My Reflection on the Talk
What strikes me repeatedly, is the ability of humans to not see what is painful, and the strength of denial in humans, when we want to avoid something. The denial of problems of racism, and discrimination in our area is very strong.

To start addressing this, I think there is a basic standard of community we can all agree on: we should respect other people's space and human dignity.

If we can reflect on our discomfort, or anger at other people in our community, and relate it to this standard, I think we will make progress in understanding our own fears, and discover ways we can change our own behavior to bring comfort to ourselves, and our fellow citizens.

One interesting point in the conversation was reflecting on how we might feel threatened by a group of all non-white people hanging out, or forming homogeneous communities within our area- how rural communities might expect others to conform to their standards of 'normal,' excluding, or victimizing many 'others.'

The ideal of equality does not require us to like each other, but for us all to respect each other, and have equality under that law, and in our community systems.

Good relationships cannot be forced through integration, but must be developed authentically, and organically. If we do not have respect and equality in our communities, then positive, authentic relationships will continue to be illusive, and we will continue to miss out on the benefits of diversity, and contribute to negative social outcomes in our region.

I myself was not accepted into the community when my family moved here in 1987, not so much by the kids, but by adults- parents, teacher, administrators. I was not welcomed. This had many negative effects- one was that I did not respect the unique culture here, because it discriminated against me. It has taken me a long time to respect the unique culture of Central PA, and there is much to be explored, liked, and respected about it-- but if we can't amicably share it with 'others,' they may never find out. Conversely, if we don't welcome people, not only do they feel excluded, but we might never know what they have to offer.

Thanks again to everyone who is supporting and encouraging the path toward Undoing Racism® in Central PA.

If you would like to schedule a talk with your group or organization, please contact me through the contact form on the right of this page.

October Events

Lewisburg Founder's Donation Event

September's Founder's Donation Event was in Lewisburg.
We raised: $0
Number of participants: 1 Police Officer (All Events are free for Police, and elected officials!)
Total average donation per person:  $0

One person, Chief Yost, came out the the Lewisburg Founder's Donation Event.  I was appreciative of Chief Yost's attendance, and the time he spent at the event discussing the issue of racism from his position.

One thing that rang true for me, when I interviewed Diana Dunn, a co-founder Undoing RacismⓇ, was her quote: 
"Police deal with the failure of community institutions." 
By the time our officers are policing community members, there have already been failures in families, neighbors, schools, service organizations, the economy, elected leadership, community planning etc.

"Law officers can't 'fix' our communities," Chief Yost offered, "We police them."

At 4:39 in the following PBS News Hour clip, you can see an officer talk about the disproportionate pressure on Police to serve in too many social service roles, (and also, the disproportionate rates at which black citizens are victimized) The entire segment is really great. It starts with police talking about inadequate gun control laws:

Officer Yost expressed interest in Undoing RacismⓇ training, as have other police, and social service workers in our area. A main challenge for everyone is cost. A few organizations are willing to contribute financially to Undoing RacismⓇ in the Valley, but we will need buy-in from every community to raise the $18,000 we need. 

Raising funds, and having discussions in the community is an integral part of bringing this training to the area. When I first started talking with Diana Dunn about Undoing RacismⓇ in the Valley, she said we should till the soil and plant the seeds, to make sure our area wants to have this discussion, to get the community on the same page about what racism is, and to get buy in from the community. I am realizing, as well, that the process of organizing is a practice of the training itself- giving citizens a meaningful role in directing their communities. 

Bloomsburg Meet up

0 attended. 

Not a good week for attendance, but I find, everywhere I engage people in conversations about race, and what Undoing RacismⓇ is, I find sincere interest. The Bloomsburg Meet up was at Phillips Emporium, and the owner talked with me for quite a while about many issues in the region. This was another great chance to speak with an iconic figure in the community. Many initiatives have been spawned and developed in the space Phillips Emporium provides to the community. One common theme is the challenge of engaging citizens in community work. It certainly is a challenge-- for everyone.

The Sunny Side
I am committed to bringing this program to our area, and a few organizations have expressed willingness to raise funds. I am optimistic that interest will be sustained, and grow.

I have confidence that given the right information and tools, community leaders in the Valley will make a difference, and lead us toward healthy and diverse community structures. If we are deliberate, we can set an example for other areas that are grappling with the same challenges. 

Since last January, police, non profits, individual citizens, churches, and civic groups have been incredibly supportive an open to Undoing Racism in the Valley, and I am optimistic that we will reach our fundraising goals. 

If you have extra time to lend- I can use a few dedicated volunteers to spread information, and organize fundraisers. Just use the contact form on this blog, or email

Stay tuned for events in your community!
November's Founder's Event will be in: Sunbury 
November's Meet up will be in: Northumberland

Monday, September 28, 2015

Come out this Thursday to Zelda's cafe for the Lewisburg Founder's Donation Event, or join us for a Meet up on Saturday in Bloomsburg to talk about white racism, and approaching our communities about the subject.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

First Week of Sept. Events

The first week of each month will bring two opportunities for community engagement, in preparation of Undoing Racism® here in Central PA. One is a fundraiser- Founders' Donation Events-- until Spring. Make sure you attend your communities Founder's Donation Event! The other is an informal Meet-up to talk about how to approach our communities with the subject of racism, and how to organize for Undoing Racism® trainings in our area. The Meet-ups are open to anyone and free.

September's Founder's Donation Event was in Bloomsburg.
We raised: $78.52
Number of participants: 5
Total average donation per person:  $15.70

Our conversation was led by a game of 'What do we know about racism?" The understanding of what racism is has changed over time. We had a participants from multiple generations. One lived through the time of segregation, and remembers racism being about one group of people believing that they are better than another group. My generation recognizes uncomfortableness as a sign of a problem, a few focused on structures of power that oppress some people. So what is the new language around racism- how is racism defined today?

Racism- a power structure that favors one race over another

What about when non-white people discriminate against white people? Let's take a look at the definition of white people in the Urban Dictionary (definitions are voted on, and the top winner is the prevailing definition) is popular culture talking about 'white' people?
"Single handedly, the most violent race of human beings throughout the history of mankind. No other race of human beings has killed more people, raped more women, destroyed more cultures, or has stolen as much land as white people. White people are the most hated race of human beings.
Read any university level history book to learn the truth about "White people""
 Are white people the bad race? We talked about this as part of our game. I also address this subject squarely in my free talk "Who are We? Race and Identity in Rural PA"
 This current Urban dictionary definition is clearly discrimination:

Discrimination- judging a person by a group affiliation instead of on individual merit

While the Urban Dictionary definition is offensive to 'white' people, what power does it have to change our ability to get a job, rent a house, or get a loan? What power structure is this definition embedded in? This is the difference between discrimination and racism. 'White' Americans may be discriminated against, but are not subject to a power system that favors black or hispanic people over 'white.'

One thing the definition does tell us is the unrest in the non white community over racism and discrimination that affects their everyday lives. How does racism manifest itself in your family, business or community? This topic leads well into the Meet-up at The Well in Milton over the weekend...

The Well in Milton

Only one person came to The Well on Sunday, but the manager of the coffee shop also sat down for a bit, so that made three of us. Most of the time I went over what Undoing Racism® is, and the information gathered from the previous Meet-up- mostly challenges and tools for approaching the community about racism. 

We were able to spend a little time on the subject of the day, which was- 'The Conversation about White Racism," which starts with "I am not racist." The world seems to be telling 'white' people that all 'white' people are racist. It sounds very offensive, but the meaning behind it is: white people are privileged, and every 'white' person benefits from a system that favors 'white' people- and more 'white' people knowingly, or unknowingly, perpetuate white privilege. ...and it is not just white people who favor white people in our culture. This is something we have to work on as Americans.

White privilege in the US is something that many people do not see or recognize:

White Privilege-  benefits for 'white' people in societies that favor white complexions

Understanding what racism is, how we play a role, and what we can do about it is stressfull, especially if we don't have the definitions to provide answers, or the tools to solve the problem. 

During the Meet-up, myself and the other person remaining (the manager had to get back to work) thought about what came for us after, "I am not racist" and we both had the same experience:

Listening to non-white voices. This can be difficult in a very white area, like we live in- but our time in history is ripe with diverse voices rising up to tell their story, and demand equity in our systems. Our participant at the Meet-up had a chance to listen to voices at the Bucknell Solidarity Event.  We can hear minority voices in academic papers, the news, literature, history, politics... and if we make room and open doors, in our own businesses, organizations, and communities.

This is what Undoing Racism® is about: understanding structural racism, white privilege, and the role we might play in perpetuating racism in our communities; listening to the non white experience, and getting the definitions and tools we may use to Undo Racism® for a more prosperous and healthy future.

Thanks everyone for coming out! Stay tuned for October events!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bloomsburg Founders Donation Event

The Bloomsburg Founders Donation Event is next Thurday September 3rd.
Join us at the West End Ale Haus for brews and pretzel bites as we test our knowledge about racism and strategize about Undoing Racism® in Central PA.

Bloomsburg Founder's Donation Event
Thursday Sept. 3rd at the West End Ale Haus
Join the party with Buckets of Brews and famous Pretzel Nuggets while we test our knowledge about racism, and get strategic about Undoing Racism®
$15 Please register through the contact form at the right of this page. 

I need at least 5 participants for this event and so far only have 1. Please spread the word, and come out and join us on Thursday!

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Good Sermon at Shiloh Church in Danville

I was invited to the Shiloh Church in Danville this past Sunday. The voices of the Ferguson movement asked for actions meant to heal and a focus on visions of a better future this weekend, and I experienced that message at Shiloh on Sunday, the one year anniversary of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, MO.

I am not a religious person, but was moved, challenged and inspired by Shiloh's messages:

From A Litany for Justice:

"Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury and the depth of the wound.

Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment.

Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations and restoration, or how we can repair the breach and prevent future loss. Let us not rush past the loss of this mother's child, this father's child... someone's beloved child.

Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance.

Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice. Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, and the pain that is life in community together."

After the article in the Daily Item this weekend, chronicling the negative experiences of non white community members in our area, I think it is important, first- to listen. But, then, to know that we are a community with much compassion and a want to understand and solve our problems.

Join us for our next Founder's Donation Event to raise money for our community leaders to take Undoing Racism® training, or the next Meet Up to discuss addressing racism in our communities.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A reflection after the first talk on "Who are we? Race and Identity in Rural PA"

The two events this past week were hard, but great opportunities to talk about the struggle toward equality here in the US, and the opportunity for our region to be a leader in the national debate around racism.

We are lucky to live under a federal Constitution that frames for us the nobleness- not of blood, or wealth- but human conscience.

Where are we now in this struggle? We have come a long way from our colonial cradle- it has been a fight, and we still have work to do.

It is hard to look at racism, but we have a responsibility to reflect and make a choice about who we are, who we want to be as a community here in Central PA, and what we will do next:

Scroll down in this study to see that PA is the only northern state that joins the South East in being The Most Prejudiced states in the US- that is based on "The National Annenberg Election Survey ask[ing] people to rank the intelligence, trustworthiness and work effort of different groups of people, on a scale from 0 to 100"

A plea from Penn Live's opinion editor to end the 'quiet racism' here in PA.

A Penn Live report on Racism in PA school sports: Unchecked, Unchallenged, Unabashed: Is Racism in High School Sports Being Tolerated?

A devastating case: PA Police Chief accused of cover up in fatal beating of a hispanic kid in Shenandoah.

HOW will non-white citizens respond to this abuse?

Recently in Sunbury: After a bar fight (no one asked what the fight was about) two men chased a black man down, and the black man stabbed them. Notice the discrepancies in stories- "black man chases down and stabs two white men" and "the white men had black man on the ground, and then he stabbed them." Let's ask ourselves- if a black man chased a white man down and had the white man on the ground and then, the white man shot the black man- what would the story be then? Self-defense? This young black man has been sentenced to jail on multiple counts.

Recently in Sunbury: After being called "Nigger" in Sunbury, a young black man chased down the taunter with a bb gun to scare him. The young black man has been sentenced to jail.

Community is a relationship, let's reflect on the white/non-white relationships we have in our communities, and the role we each play.

I want to thank everyone who has been brave enough to look, like the Sunset Rotary in Lewisburg, who recently gave me the opportunity to share the talk: "Who are we? Race and Identity in Rural PA" I know people here care, but perhaps we don't know what to do. As a first step, let us be open to a discussion about racism.

*this post recently erroneously stated that PA had climbed to #1 racist state on the Top Tens list, in fact it currently ranked #18. 

Meet Up from Sat. Aug 1st in Selinsgrove

The Meet Up in Selinsgrove was a start at looking at what tools we have to address the injustices of racism and the challenges we face in talking about racism in Central PA.

The perspective that 'We don't have a problem with racism'
People think racism does not affect them
Getting non-white perspectives
Talking to white people about racism
People are afraid to speak up
We are ashamed to talk about racism and afraid to talk about our feelings of shame
Reaching people who 'are not the choir'
Support for the work of addressing racism

Undoing Racism         
Socrates Cafe
Reading Clubs
Civic action
The United Way:
-has a Diversity and Inclusion Council- is looking for diverse members
-and a Diversity Blog to share stories- good and bad about diversity in the Valley 

Many people have approached me and asked me to not talk about racism- to focus on other issues like poverty, 'new conservative' streams of consciousness, LGBT rights, prison initiatives, or to look at all oppression as one- but that is not going to help the growing numbers in our communities who are affected by racism every day- who die, are sent to prison, and ultimately live a shorter life due to the stress of living in an aggressive environment.

Equally important is the knowledge that racism is not a conservative vs. liberal phenomenon- we all have grown in a similar culture in this respect, and I can tell you, through my conversations and experiences here in PA that people of all persuasions care very much, and we are all challenged by talking about racism.

Can we ask ourselves, "Who are we?," "Who do we want to be?" and "How do we contribute to our national creed and struggle for equality and justice for all?"

The first challenge is 'the conversation' which starts with "I am not racist". We all react this way, it seems, but if we can push a little further we will start to see that we are.  Let's talk about it. I want to assure you that racism is a problem we need to solve in Central PA, and that the first step is to simply talk about it.

Racism- a power element or structure that favors one race over another. 
Structural Racism- community or societal structures that favor one race
White Privilege-  benefits for 'white' people in societies that favor white complexions
Discrimination- consideration of others based on group identity rather than individual merit
Bigotry- intolerance toward those who have different opinions than oneself 

"Focusing on people as causes of evil then exonerates social structures and political decision making for contributing to underlying conditions that foster evil:
poverty, racism, sexism and elitism."-Philip Zimbardo

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Danville Founder's Donation

The first Founder's Donation Event was a success! We raised $92.80.

Number in attendance: 5
Average donation per: $18.56

Thank you donors!

Besides excellent refreshments, we got to hear from Reverend Ann about her experience taking the training in NY.

Having previous participants share their story is a valuable tool for educating our leaders about what Undoing Racism® is and isn't-- what I take from my research, interviews, and participants accounts is that it is not the answer, but it is a tool. A tool to understand what racism is, how it was constructed and how it can shed light on racial disparities in our communities.The work is ours to change structures and behaviors in our communities that perpetuate racism- and ultimately 'undo-racism.'

Obvious members who may benefit from the training include hiring managers, police, school employees, and service organizations.

Generating discussion and comfort around the issue of racism is a key first step to engaging the community.

Bridging conservative/liberal divide, and understanding our unique history, and current behaviors of racism is key to addressing disparities in our area. 

Demographics, and statistics of institutional disparities, are effective tools to motivate discussion on racism.

We had a constructive and successful evening at Brews b Bytes. Thanks to all who contributed!

To get more acquainted with efforts to bring Undoing Racism® to Central PA, please join us for a fundraiser or Meet-up. Stay tuned for more fun and engaging events!

Meet Up, Kind Cafe, Sat., Aug 1st at 9:30 am
Share information, organizing strategies, meet others who are working toward similar goals, find partners to work with and support. 

Scheduled talk: 
Aug. 3rd Lewisburg: "Who Are We? Race and Identity in Rural PA."
Monday night Rotary at the Lewisbug Club. Contact Rotary for information.

Monday, July 6, 2015


Dear Community Members,

Thank you for supporting a life changing, and community changing opportunity- Undoing Racism®

National events have brought the problem of inequity back into the spotlight. Do not feel overwhelmed or hopeless. I know the Central Susquehanna Valley to be compassionate, smart, brave, high spirited, and willing to do hard things- together we can solve problems of inequity in our communities, and lead by example for a better tomorrow. 

Undoing Racism® is training provided by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. The organization is based in New Orleans, LA, but they have training centers all over the country. Our closest training center is NYC. They have trained over 500,000 people since the 1980’s. Their focus is mostly on institutional leaders of hospitals, schools, police, those in child welfare or the justice system, community organizations, and business owners.

The goal of the training is to reduce institutional inequities through the 10 Principles of Undoing Racism. We are raising funds to bring this intensive two-day training to our area for Undoing Racism® Community Training.

Cost: $18,000
People trained: up to 40 people (about $450 per person)

Training is available across the country, but the closest training to Central PA is about three hours away... sustained interest in the program may lead to a permanent training center in our area.