What does the ‘art and beauty of living and loving beyond race’ mean?

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Yes, it is a rich descriptive—a poetic tag line, but what does it actually mean?

It describes those of us who have recognized the destructive force rendered through race ideology and have decided to deny it leverage in our lives—to the best of our abilities. We know that in its very conception, race ideology was and remains divisive— designed to corrupt humanity to an unrecognizable, irrefutable, inconsolable and irreconcilable broken mess.

BUT we are a people empowered by the DIVINE with love, hope, faith and creativity!

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Jefferson and his wife.

Jefferson (a white guy) described his father as a southern, Civil War enthusiast. Jefferson’s facial expressions gave us, his audience, permission to deduct that his father was an overt, proud racist. Post high school life experience left Jefferson with his own impressions about race that were different than those of his father. While attending a predominantly white university in Georgia, he joined a white fraternity and shared a brotherhood with young men who reflected his father’s perspective. BUT then Jefferson did something artful, beautiful and most of all intentional. He joined the African-American Student Association (AASA). He gave himself permission to be uncomfortable. He learned a lot. He forged relationships. He initiated a clothing drive for the homeless that created an opportunity for the brothers in his white fraternity to serve along side his brothers and sisters of AASA. Long after Jefferson graduated, the collaboration between the two groups occurs annually.

Jill and her family
Jill and her family

For almost twenty years, Jill (a black woman) has been a part of the white church she married into.  It was the church that her husband’s family had attended for generations. It sincerely reflected the socially and racially segregated community in which it was established in 1872. As the only black parishioner, most likely, Jill’s was the only heart longing for her church to be a hospitable and inclusive place for all people–not just white people. Jill prayed. Jill tried to leave. As if supernaturally anchored, Jill was compelled to stay. She continued to pray. Following the Charleston Nine massacre, Jill prompted, pushed and strongly encouraged her pastor to move forward differently and contribute to healing where race had secured such a cavernous breach among churches. Since then, Jill, her pastor and their church hold monthly reconciliation parties with a local African Methodist Episcopal church. As one, they assemble, break bread, worship, share, listen and talk about racial reconciliation. To witness the sights, sounds, feelings, and fragrance of these gatherings is to partake in the art and beauty of a finely crafted masterpiece.

Like so many of us in our Brownicity community, Jefferson and Jill intentionally do the hard work of tearing down walls, forging new paths, creating new stories, engaging in change—however uncomfortable and inconvenient.  The ‘art and beauty of living and loving beyond race’ integrates love, hope, creativity, passion, and commitment. We dare to believe that we can craft a more beautiful world for our children and then we do the work — in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, wherever we have access and influence. 

As you move forward, consider how you will partake in the art and beauty of living and loving beyond race. How will you or how do you commit, engage, and advocate? Please share your stories.

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Church Reconciliation Party
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Church Reconciliation Party
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Church Reconciliation Party
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Church Reconciliation Party
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Church Reconciliation Party

Active Agents

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We’ve All Been Duped

We’ve all been duped!

Tricked into thinking that race is WHO WE ARE–is ESSENTIAL to our identity!
Tricked into thinking that race is entitled to our allegiance.

And so we surrender to its SIREN, calling us to COAGULATE into sides, fortified to defend against the OPPOSITION–the opposition that race created. Yes, its  a CRAZY CONUNDRUM!

“Mr. Race. You took a WHOLE, divided it into pieces and called each piece greater than the other. Then you say to the pieces, ‘Defend yourself against the others! By destroying them, we will be WHOLE again!’”

Race has us all TWISTED and TANGLED

CONFUSED and MANGLED

VIOLATING sisters and brothers in pursuit of self-prescribed justice.

If we destroy the lines, then we can all be on the same side.

Mr. Race, you have no place in this space! —Lucretia Carter Berry, 2015

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We are engaging in a paradigm shift. Our eyes are wide open and we can so clearly see the forces that have shaped our national consciousness by writing many of us out of the human family and leaving the rest of us to function without a societal mirror. Decision-makers and media representatives systematically reframe our history to cultivate fear and ignorance. Fear and ignorance are a perfect recipe for feeding the narratives that subtly seduce us into indifference to racism, segregation, poverty, genocide and the list of dehumanization goes on.The consequences  have been reprehensible, disgraceful and seemingly unforgivable.

BUT as we take on the responsibility of becoming active agents, we are empowered to reject the frames, narratives and subliminal messages that have lied to us—that have broken our human family!

A frame is an unconscious lens through which we view an issue or problem. Related to social cognition processes encoded in our brains, frames help us quickly make sense of complex information and then make individual and collective decisions on that basis. These processes generate deeply embedded perspectives that are easily activated in the subconscious, especially through devices like images, stories, stereotypes and slogans. For example, ‘Hard work yields prosperity.

Narratives are specific stories (whether real, exaggerated, or fictionalized) used to convey or reinforce a given frame. For example, ‘Those who have less are not hard workers, are lazy and are looking for a hand out.’

Messages are the takeaway from frames and narratives that invoke specific action. For example, ‘Poor people want a hand-out. Don’t help poor people.

The bad news is our forefathers made up this crap. The good news is our forefathers made up this crap! Therefore we can un-do this crap!

We can change our frame! Dr. Caroline Leaf* says so. We can switch on our brains, question everything, no longer passively accept information that dehumanizes people, and embrace the responsibility to think and act outside of the lies we’ve been told.

We can choose a frame of justice, love, grace, mercy, friendship, forgiveness and ONEness. And within that frame, we can write narratives that speak to the God-value in all of us. And our message, the take away, will be one of healing, change, and inclusion. We will live, move and ‘be’ very differently than we are now.

This is where we are after Session 3. To continue moving forward, do the homework in preparation for Session 4, Tuesday, Oct. 6. 

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*Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions by  Dr. Caroline Leaf

Tribe Vibe: Makers of Safe Spaces

Session 2

Our ‘Tribe Vibe’ was melodious, complimentary, harmonious and groovy. Our instruments were our hums, our hands tapping on our chests and tables, our words and our laughter all set to syncopation. Honestly, I believe we were surprised at how well we flowed together as ONE unified choir while maintaining the unique vibe of our individual tribes (our tables). The sensation was described as sweet, happy, peaceful, smooth, helpful, hopeful and inspiring.

Then came the cacophony!—the harsh, jarring, discordant mixture of sounds from beating trash cans, lids and yelling! This invoked feelings of tension, fear, anxiety, misunderstanding, and a desire to flee.

When we talk about issues of race/sim, we don’t want to contribute to the cacophony of popular race rhetoric that seems to be the norm these days. We don’t want to fan the flames of the molotov cocktail of personal, political and religious perspectives void of historical context and full of emotional vomiting, systemically unaware news coverage of race-related events, and motives void of nurturing understanding, healing, and unity! We refuse to engage in a way that adds to the fear, anxiety, hopelessness, pain, and injustice that exhausts us all.

Before we explode on social media or deface a monument or ‘avoid talking about race so it will go away,’ we ask ourselves, Are my thoughts and actions helpful, hopeful, inspiring and encouraging? Am I contributing to healing and change? We do our homework. We do our research. We recognize RACE as the GIANT ENEMY and people as victims of it’s deception, legacy and intimidation! WE WILL NOT SLING ROCKS AT PEOPLE!

As we build our capacity to engage in courageous conversations and living in the chasm of racial division, WE WILL BE CREATORS of safe spaces where people can be transparent and vulnerable. Inspired and sustained by love, such spaces cultivate healing and change that overflow into the lives of those around us. And that’s what we are going for…because when race/ism is addressed in the context of love, it loses its power!

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’Til we meet again!

This month’s homework assignment is designed to equip you to view media and cultural representations with a more critical eye. We are looking forward to your comments.   

Nights at the Brown-tables

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Session 1

We drew self-portraits with skin-tone colored crayons and gave our skin tones wonderful names like all-spice, peanut butter cookie, peach, moca, snicker-doodle and ‘sugar cookie. Sitting at round tables, looking into each other’s faces, we told our stories of what brought us there. We agreed to SAFE SPACE Guidelines to keep the atmosphere healthy for learning and healing. We learned twenty terms, yes 20, that are essential to our participation. We were made aware of some significant information that our standard history lessons excluded. And then we signed on to do a significant amount of homework before next month’s meeting.

This was the launch of Intro to Brownicity: The Art & Beauty of Living & Loving Beyond Race. “Brownicity” is the combination of the words brownand ethnicity. The word/color brown represents melanin, the pigment that we all have—those with darker skin tones have more and those with lighter skin tones have less.

Racism has a lot of people talking right now. This is good because when we don’t talk about racism, it flourishes. However, many people find themselves tossed to and fro by the race-winds of the media, politics, social and economic perspectives, emotions and/or religious convictions. Almost daily, regarding race issues, they find themselves confused about where to stand, who to support, and what to believe, fight, vote, pray and hope for.

Even with the best hearts and well-meaning intentions, confusion gets us nowhere! That’s why Brownicity is dedicated to building the capacity of everyone to engage in courageous thinking, conversations and living that counter the lie, ideology and legacy of race. Through our ‘Brown’-tables, we offer a family-friendly, safe space for equipping and empowering participants to engage in meaningful conversations that bring about healing, change and HOPE. When race/ism is addressed in the context of love, it loses its power.

We will meet the first Tuesday of the month for six months to engage and participate in dialogue, sharing, and activities that support healing, understanding, creativity, and community building. Between meetings, we do assigned ‘homework’ (yes, homework) to foster our growth—like watching films or documentaries, doing reflective and creative writing, reading complementary material, and participating in online discussions. The sessions are sequential. So to have the best experience, participants will attend each session and do all the homework. It’s like a dynamic, experiential course in ‘race’ literacy!

Around 80 people—adults and children—attended the first session with eager hearts and open minds! Their participation is a major contribution to national healing and change. If you are local (Charlotte) and missed our first Brown-table session, but would like to join us for the remaining five sessions, please complete the homework and mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 4, 7pm at The Hope Center (Mosaic Church Charlotte).

For those who attended, we’d love to hear from you. Please respond below with feedback and questions. Did you learn anything new? What was something you experienced during this session that impacted you?