Two Weeks!

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I don’t think we’ve ever been this vulnerable and bold on stage! icuTalks and Brownicity joined forces two weeks, to the day, of the shooting of Charlotte citizen, Keith Lamont Scott which inspired protests by fellow Charlotteans. Two weeks marks the time when people begin to abandon those who are grieving and go back to ‘normalcy.’ Instead of abandoning grievers and the cause for grief, we hold steadfast to our lament. We continue to ask HOW?  HOW did we get here? HOW will we be different?  We refuse to go back to normalcy!  “Forsake” normal!!!…and watch the video.

 

 

What are kids learning… when we are not teaching…?

by Lucretia Carter Berry

This is Ali Michael. Listen to her story.

Are you comfortable talking about skin tone and race?

Why or why not?

What were you taught about race in your home? In your school?

How were you taught about race?

Do you have ‘race talk’ anxiety?

My four year old, while watching Family Feud told me that she wanted the brown family to win because they are brown like us. Here is a picture of our family.

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As you can see, we are a multi-ethnic family. We are five different skin tones. The family that she was rooting for was a black family, or from her non-racialized perspective, a family in which everyone’s skin tone looks like mine. I was not bothered that she noticed the families’ skin tone differences. I was baffled by her established connection based on skin tone. I nervously asked myself, “Why is she connecting to the family based on their skin tone? Has she somehow developed prejudices?

Another time and completely unrelated to Family Feud,  I overheard my six year old telling her sisters that the doll with the dark brown skin could not play the role of Elsa (from Frozen) because Elsa has light skin and only dolls with light skin can play the role of Elsa because Elsa has light skin. I politely interjected telling her that the dark brown dolls should have the opportunity to play the role of Elsa because if only the light skin dolls were able to be Elsa then the dark brown dolls would not know the joy of pretending to be Elsa. And if we only see Elsa’s role played by light skin dolls, then we will think that only light skin dolls can play the starring roles.  

You probably have all kinds of thoughts about the skin tone conversations that we are having in our family, but here is the truth. Children are noticing skin tone differences as early as 6-18 months and by age three, children are making decisions to associate with friends who look like them. In Rubbing Off, Allison Briscoe-Smith sheds some light on developmental process of children.

For years, studies have found that children who recognize these [skin tone or racial] differences from an early age show a stronger general ability to identify subtle differences between categories like color, shape, and size—which, in turn, has been linked to higher performance on intelligence tests. …children between the ages of four and seven who show this advanced ability to identify and categorize differences are actually less prejudiced.

It is natural for children to make distinctions and categorize. But parents and teachers who have ascribed to ‘being colorblind’ have little experience talking about skin tone and race without feeling like they are somehow being racist or contributing to race problems.

The scenario is common. Many unprepared parents or teachers—perhaps caught off guard by a child’s inquiry or conversation about skin tone or race—panic and respond with “Shhh…we don’t talk about skin color,” “race doesn’t matter,” “race shouldn’t matter,” “ we are colorblind…we don’t see color.” The problem with that response is that CHILDREN DO SEE COLOR; and we live in a racialized society where race has played a huge role in establishing systems and norms which continue to have a huge impact on shaping lives. So, unfortunately, RACE still DOES MATTER! And intentionally NOT talking and teaching about it does NOT make racism go away!

When we silence our children with attempts to make them colorblind, we rob them of the power and language to have healthy conversations that could contribute to the change we’d love to see in our society. As Ali Micheal (the shero in the video),  points out in What White Children Need to Know About Race, when we don’t talk or teach about race, “we leave unchallenged the racial messages children receive from a number of sociailzing agents, which consistently place whites at the tope of the racial hierarchy” (Michael and Bartoli). Therefore, silence allows our children to be conditioned by the very “racist status quo” from which we wish to absolve them. In our children, we have the opportunity to brandish change. We should not forsake this opportunity with silence.

So, if we want to have ethnically diverse communities in which race does not matter, we need to actually feel free to talk about skin tone and race—give our children the awareness, skills and competencies that can not be acquired through silence.

The benefits of teaching such skills and competencies far exceed the comfort of silence. Teaching

  • undermines the power of racist structures, traditions, ideas and laws
  • provides support for disrupting stereotypes and implicit bias
  • leads to greater understanding
  • increases the ability to recognize and interrupt racial injustice
  • supports conscious and intentional practice
  • exposes counter narratives
  • helps understand connections
  • contributes to change and changing world view 

Teaching does not

  • make racists
  • perpetuate racism
  • create racial tension
  • portray racial groups as inherently bad, ignorant, racist, victims, powerless, hopeless, etc.

It’s important that our children are comfortable having conversations about skin tone and race. They should not be made to feel awkward or inappropriate for asking questions. They should not be made to feel as though talking about someone’s skin tone or race is off limits or a big, intimidating topic. Children should not be made to feel awkward or inappropriate for asking questions. We can begin conversations with them when they are young. If you as a parent or teacher, have ‘race talk’ anxiety and have no idea how to have non-silencing conversations, find helpful resources. I’ve listed a few below. Also, practice —with friends, with other parents and teachers—so you can reduce your anxiety before talking with children.

The history of racism belongs to all of us and and everyone is needed in the healing process. As parents and teachers, instead of silencing our children with colorblindness, let’s make it our goal to be CONSCIOUS, COMPETENT, CONFIDENT and COMFORTABLE

Here are a few resources that can help you move beyond the silencing ‘colorblind’ approach.

  1. What White Children Need to Know About Race
  2. Rubbing Off
  3. 7 Steps Toward Healthy Race Conversations with Kids
  4. Resources for Continued Learning by  We Are ColorBRAVE
  5. Why Color Blindness Will Not End Racism 

Stay tuned as I share specific ways to equip and empower children in this area.

 

“I can swim” Thank you, Simone Manuel!

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by Lucretia Carter Berry

When Simone Manuel won, I heard the beautiful sound of false beliefs being flushed down the drain. I love that sound! And with that sound, more and more the asinine belief system established by race ideology loses it grip. Olympians are made when talent, hard work, perseverance, opportunity and support align. The race caste system has stolen opportunity and support from many people thereby creating a ripple effect of more false beliefs resulting in more lives stolen. But humanity is resilient!

When Simone Manuel won, I felt the death of that conversation I’d had countless summers as an adult. It goes something like this:

Them:  Can you swim?

Me: Yes

Them: Really? Are you sure?

Me: Yes

Them: I thought black women don’t swim. (Or something like that. Some don’t actually say it, but their faces show that they are thinking it.)

I want to answer with this, “It’s not that we don’t…It’s just that for so long we were denied the opportunity and forced to live in places with no pools, and…” But usually, there’s no time for an extensive education on how the race caste system has stolen, killed and destroyed so much for so many. And frustrated that my ‘yes’ is not enough, that my ‘yes’ seems weak against the hard wiring of mis-information and false beliefs, I gently respond, “I grew up with a pool in my yard.

I know that telling them that I grew up with a pool in my yard, though true, makes space for more confusion, but at least it ends me feeling like I am on trial defending myself against their burden of stereotypes. Honestly, I am left a little beat up by their perspective, but simultaneously empowered by the expression of my truth! I can swim!

And there is always an awkward tension that I can’t interpret. Are they embarrassed by their assumption? Are they confused by my response? Are they rewiring their thinking—replacing old information with new revelation? I am always hopeful that they are rewiring—not just for their sakes but for the sake of humanity. If they are re-wiring, if change within is occurring, then the awkward conversation is worth it!

When Simone Manuel won, I felt the weight of that—the history of stolen lives, the burden of correcting false beliefs, that childhood memory of watching white families get out of the resort pool when my black family got in,  the ‘I can swim’ defense along with the emotional and psychological trauma, pain, strength, patience, embarrassment , awkwardness, and empowerment that come with it—LIFT AND BECOME A TRILLION TONS LIGHTER. I sensed a billion eyes opening and minds being set free. I heard the snap of shackles breaking!

When Simone Manuel won, EVERYONE WON! Congratulations!!

From ‘Black and White’ to Brownicity: Our story of transcending race.

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We are Nathan and Lucretia Berry, creators of Brownicity: The Art & Beauty of Living & Loving Beyond Race. Brownicity (pronounced like ethnicity) is our platform for disrupting the race narrative! The term, Brownicity is a combination of the words ‘brown,’ as in we are all hues of brown and ‘ethnicity,’ as in that which we have in common.

Brownicity emerged from our desire to equip and empower our children with language and substance that would inform their true identities which exist beyond a social and political construct. Our children bare the image of God. Essentially, they are creators, light, life, beautiful, gifted, talented, kind, loving, forgiving, sensitive, brave…we could go on and on. But unfortunately, in a highly racialized society, the race narrative will try to inform who they are–race will try to dictate their future.

With our first child, we searched for ways to give our then four year old a framework for conversations about skin tone and race that were age appropriate and that met our objectives of not centralizing our identities around race. We needed to be able to talk about daddy’s light skin and black straight hair, mommy’s deep brown skin and infinitely curly hair and her (our daughter’s) slightly tan skin and black big curly hair. One day, she came home from preschool and said, “we are all shades of brown. Daddy is really light brown. I am a little bit brown and mommy is a lot brown.” We loved it! We took that and ran with it. Our four year old understood how melanin works and had deduced a unifying truth from it: We are all shades of brown.

Equipping, empowering, encouraging and inspiring our children to live life outside of the race lie has opened the door for us to do the same for many other multi-ethnic families, people and communities. So, it is truly ironic that before the beginning of ‘us becoming one’ our lives were very ‘black and white.’

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Lucretia.  Born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC in the 70’s, a second generation integrated community had impressed upon me the significance, or rather insignificance, of being black in a white majority. Some of the lies race taught were easy to reject. Other lies were subconsciously internalized. But, the uprooting of the race ideology would soon begin my journey of healing and liberty in of all places, Iowa…talk about a white majority. Iowa State University was my home for several years while I completed my graduate work. I managed to find a black church on campus that seemed to serve as my spiritual and cultural oasis.

The authenticity and kindness of that church resurrected my life. I believe that God guided me all the way to Iowa to experience the growth, encouragement and connection I experienced as a part of that faith community.

One Sunday, the pastor laid out a vision for a multi-ethnic ministry. “We will no longer be a black church,” he said. “We will be a reflection of heaven. We are Becoming Interracially One…BIO!” I wish that I could say that my heart leapt with excitement about BIO. But, the pastor’s words felt like a punch in the face. Betrayal. Those words stung like salt in a 400 year old racial wound!

‘How could he destroy my oasis?’ I lamented. My thoughts turned to how much blackness I’d have to sacrifice, allow to die, in order to welcome white people into my faith community. While my emotions responded to the painful history of racial injustice, my spirit seemed to know that there was a greater work in the making. I aligned myself with the vision of becoming a multi-ethnic church. I opened myself to change. It was complicated and uncomfortable. My emotions and thinking were in constant contention.

But, I did the work of change. Change allowed me to meet Nathan. 

Nathan. I was born and raised in Indianola, Iowa,  a small community known for farming and hot air balloons. Growing up, I knew less than a hand full of people who were not white. As a small child, my father was the pastor of a country church that literally had corn growing on three sides of the building. About the time I finished elementary school we were moving so that my dad could begin pastoring a church in Des Moines that would have a focus on ethnic diversity. At the time, I didn’t know what ethnic or diversity even meant.

In the fall of 1996, I began my freshman year at Iowa State University. My “churched” background required that I attend a campus ministry weekly–even though like most 18 year olds, I had no desire to attend a church service every Sunday morning. Fortunately, I found one that started at noon, so I could recover from the activities of Saturday night and still make it to church on time. I attended this traditionally black church for an entire semester, sat in the back and no one ever spoke to me. By the time my second semester began, the pastor began to engage with me about an idea to create a church that could reach people of any ethnic background. Two things connected me to this idea, the pastor’s passion and he wanted me to help.

Nathan & LucretiaServing together to realize the pastor’s vision demolished all kinds of racial, cultural, and religious barriers in our faith community and within ourselves. The church’s transformation was a chrysalis for personal transformation. Post graduation, our professions took us to two different regions of the country. But, we kept in touch and the rest is history. Striving toward a common goal solidified our friendship and gave us a unique and dynamic foundation–a foundation and a story that continues to speak through our family. On June 15, we celebrate 14 years of marriage and have three beautiful little girls.  It’s humbling to reflect on the now 20 year old ripple effect caused by a few ISU college students doing the work of change.

Children aren’t afraid to talk about skin tone…Why are their parents?

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by Lucretia Carter Berry

When our children talk about skin color, we parents don’t have to be afraid to engage in their conversations. Actually we can let them lead the way. When children talk about their friend’s skin being brown, peach, pink, etc., they are simply noticing the obvious.

But parents have been shamed into shunning conversations about skin color, opting instead to embrace the seemingly more safe and politically correct colorblind approach.

Colorblindess—the notion, the theory, the language or lack thereof—has made parents a false promise. If we don’t see skin color (or talk about it), racism will go away. I wish it were true. But it’s just not.

Research shows that because children are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism, avoiding conversations about race and skin tone will not produce color-blindness. Instead, the colorblind approach will rob them/us of language and power to address race-based issues when the opportunity presents itself.

The observation of skin tone is not inherently connected to the social political construct of race. So, in our family, we empower our children by giving them language and freedom to talk about skin tones and other obvious differences. For example, the ethnic make up in our family is white dad, black mom, and three multi-ethnic little girls. We have given ourselves a language and narrative to acknowledge our five different ‘hues of brown’ (and five different hair textures) without using race terminology like ‘white’ and ‘black.’

Having conversations about skin tone void of shame and discomfort in their early years has established a safe space and frame work for educating them about the complexities of race ideology. Our then seven year old articulated her understanding of race as a terrible idea created a long time ago, that if not for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would have made it impossible for her to be born! She expressed anger about the invention and existence of race and racism. (Yay! We want anger to be pointed towards the idea and legacy of race, not towards a group of people.)

I was amazed at how she formulated this position. She had read Meet Addy: An American Girl series, Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?, Who Was Abraham Lincoln?, both of the Who Was…? series, to name of few. She had lots of questions and I gave her age appropriate answers. 

As parents, we can not allow fear to keep us from having these conversations. Shunning comments about skin tone and race in the warmth of our loving homes, may leave our children susceptible to the conditioning of institutionalized racial narratives. Let’s empower our children to create a more beautiful world.

Here are a few related resources.

In the comments section, please share your resources and practices or any questions you may have.

How do we get people to want to know the truth? Reflections from a Ta-Nehisi Coates lecture

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‘How do we get the truth—the knowledge about race/ism—to people?’

This was the question posed by a college student following the lecture given by Ta-Nehisi Coates at Davidson College (November 16. 2015). This particular student, a young man, was excited about what he’d uncovered in his college course regarding anti-racist education. I could tell that he was excited about knowing the true history of how race/ism was intentionally designed and implemented. He was excited to be enlightened and clear. He was clear about how the division, inequality, hate and fear were not an organic, natural occurrence and that people groups are not biologically predisposed for a social economic hierarchy. With clarity in place, he began to hope. Implied in his question, tone and demeanor, was that if we all new the truth, we could all be free and end all this race/ism nonsense.

‘The truth is available. The information is clear. It is written in the constitution. The cause for the Civil War is clearly written in the war document. The laws that secured inequality have been documented. The truth is not hidden. It is available for all who want to know. But people don’t want to know. They benefit from believing the lies.’ 

This was the gist of the lecturer’s response to the young man’s question. So the question is not ‘how do we get the truth to people and make them aware of the true history’ Perhaps the question is…’How do we get people to want to know the truth?’

Dear people who believe that you benefit from believing the lie,

By accepting the false narratives that you have been force-fed and digested, you are pawns in a game rigged for everyone’s demise. Yes, even your own demise. While refusing to deconstruct the lie of race/ism, you continue to be exploited, raped, used, and abused, and taken advantage of. For over 300 years, this system (of race ideology, narratives and discrimination) has counted on your ignorance to perpetuate fear so that it can thrive.  While this system gives you the illusion of benefitting—status, material gain, comfort, self-righteousness—your loss is so much greater.

Unfortunately, your soul suffers a severe loss in believing others less worthy of love than you. You forfeit your right to be fully human as you continue to deprive others of humanity and human rights. By sustaining this nonsense, you lose your opportunity to tap into the divine creative power we all possess to rise up and overcome the weak principality of race. And by allowing yourself to be governed by such a weak principality, you allow yourself to live as a slave. (Ironic, isn’t it?)

Our desire is for you to be FREE, empowered and living in the full capacity for which you were created. We love you and are anxiously awaiting your arrival to the border of Freedom Land. We can’t fully enter without you. In the meantime, let us know how we can help you want to know the truth?

Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Shalom,

Brownicity: The Art & Beauty of Living & Loving Beyond Race  12342793_1659421017676481_8349281181690331825_n

Do you practice?

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If you could accumulate the time you’ve spent longing, wishing, hoping and praying for a better world, how many hours would it be? Probably a lot. I know as an African-American woman married to a white man and mom of multi-ethnic children, I contemplate a world where race does not interfere with the essence of our journey of becoming, creating, living and loving. I spend a lot of time thinking of and dreaming about a more beautiful world where all humans function in in the fullness of their power to eradicate the ‘isms’ that narrate some of us as less human and less worthy than others.

With that question asked, if you could accumulate the time you’ve spent practicing the change for which you long, wish, hope and pray, how many hours would it be? It takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field, Malcolm Gladwell concludes in his book, Outliers. Practice involves intentionality, becoming skilled and proficient, performing regularly. Do you practice creating the society for which you long? Or are you simply responding to the world that someone else created?

imgresBrownicity: The Art & Beauty of Living & Loving Beyond Race is the space we created to not only dream about a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible, but to practice producing that world. We are finding that practice achieves a lot more than mastery. Practice also boosts confidence and bolsters proficiency. Practice allows us to tremendously grow our capacity as visionaries and creators—to boldly change the world.

For example, when I hear an extended family member make a derogatory comment about someone who is Latino, I speak up—respectfully, of course—I take that moment to acknowledge the illness behind that comment. I let them know that its not ok. I practice. At first, practicing was uncomfortable and awkward—like learning any new skill—but after a lot of practice, I find it a lot easier and now I expect this of myself. Yes, it would be easier to let those who ‘don’t get it’ remain in the dark or ‘die off,’ as I’ve often heard. But I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to know the truth and be set free from the lie of race/sim.

images-2As you move forward, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I take the time to imagine the kind of society in which I’d love to live? What role would I play? How would I interact with others?
  • Am I  creating the society for which I long? Or am I simply responding to the world that someone else created?

Remember, practice makes a difference!

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?