Michael J. Readinger

In June, the CHHSM Board and Staff released a letter in response to the pandemic of systemic racism. In the past 30 days we have been laying the groundwork for implementation of the action steps that we committed to taking. A letter is important, but actions speak louder than words and it is time to act!

In the weeks ahead, we plan to undertake some very tangible and real activities to address the issue of racism and white supremacy in our world. The CHHSM team invites you all to join us in this work as we live into our vision that together we create a just, caring and compassionate world.

A suitable launching point for this initiative is the If It Weren’t for the Women video from the panel discussion at the CHHSM Annual Gathering in March. Please sit back and watch this 45- minute presentation with an open mind, a welcoming heart, a generous spirit and a desire to learn. As you listen to the stories shared by the Rev. Traci Blackmon, the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk, the Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson, the Rev. Linda Jaramillo and the Rev. Loey Powell, you will be reminded that the framework for the healing we long for comes from “Justice and Grace — Together.”

Again, letters are important and watching the video does remind us that racism has thrived in this world for too long. Actions are required of all of us. Nothing that any of us may do individually will solve the systematic and culturally ingrained problem of racism. But if all of us commit to doing something, we will have a chance. So, I ask you to either join us or host your own effort in any or all of the following programs, processes or projects:

  • Conduct a racial equity analysis or audit for your work team, your board and your entire organization. The CHHSM team is just beginning this work now and it will be a lengthy process of exploration, understanding, and a resolution to change. As a result of our work, it is our hope to be able to create a resource that other organizations can use to guide them through the process in their own setting.
  • Undertake a collaborative experience to increase your awareness and sensitivity to the issue of racism. There are many options available and, beginning on August 1, 2020, the CHHSM Staff will take the YWCA of Greater Cleveland 21 Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge as a team experience.
  • Start a book study or other group study opportunity. As a further opportunity to increase our understanding of the pandemic nature of racism, CHHSM leaders will facilitate a Zoom-based book study of How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Using this book or such books as White Fragility, Waking Up White, The New Jim Crow, or the UCC’s white privilege curriculum are all great tools to gain knowledge on the issue. The How to be an Antiracist study will be open to all members.
  • Gather intentional resources that illustrate your commitment to this work and provide tangible steps and valuable tools to assist your team in its work to end racism. We will create a specific landing page on the CHHSM website for our work in this area. Active links to UCC, wider church, CHHSM member and other secular sites will be located there, and they will be easy to navigate based on your interest and needs. The Advocacy Toolkits already focus on societal inequities and racism, and that intersectional work will continue in the years ahead.
  • Make a meaningful financial commitment to an organization (or two or three) that works on a grass roots level towards ending systemic racism. The CHHSM Board will be working through a process to determine where to contribute for the maximal and most meaningful impact.

In addition to all the activities and actions listed above, we also commit to a series of communications focused on this work. We will share ideas and best practices, we will describe our actions and progress, we will ask for your commitment to join us, and we will Be A Voice in this work. The time to act is now, so please join us. Commit to doing one thing with others. And then another. And you may find you cannot stop doing things until the work is done. I pray that it may be so.