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A Wednesday for Reflection



For this week's Wednesday Words, RICJ's Executive Director Toby Ayers wrote about reflection — how it can inform and energize, and how it can lead to meaningful action.



Wednesday by its very nature (stuck in the dead-center of the week) falls between what has been and what is yet to be… a blink of an eye between past and future. 

This Wednesday feels like a day for reflection: on the protests erupting across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd and so many others, the racism inherent in our systems and institutions, the paths to a better future. Today I participated in a training that laid bare how racial disparities cross all systems – education, housing, justice, economics and just plain everyday living – and have done so continuously throughout the 400 years of our country’s existence. That education is necessary preparation for what happens in the next days, weeks, years. If Wednesday is a day to gather strength for action, awareness is essential to understand how our institutions, structures and systems have not worked and what might be built in their place.

I myself have few definitive answers, but I take from what I am learning several lessons for a better future:

  • Talking matters. Listening matters even more. Listening can be uncomfortable for folks like me. Yet why would I expect learning and growth to be easy; racism certainly isn’t. I hear in the voices of the youth we work with the sheer trauma of racism past-and-present. In conversations, I must listen harder, embrace discomfort, and work to fully understand what is needed to help create an antiracist future.

  • Trust matters. Communities, villages, families, partnerships, everything depends on trust. Trust is faith in others, in the possibility of change, and a belief in a future together. Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Institute talks of maintaining Hope in the midst of brutal facts: “Truth crushed to earth ultimately rises again.” Dr. Ibram X. Kendi has said, “You have to believe change is possible to bring it about.”

  • And love matters. In an interview this week about his new Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, Dr. Kendi said: “What drives me is love. Love is a verb; it is action; and anti-racism is action…. I want the joy of human creation to flower, not the misery of bigotry and racism.”

An African proverb says, “The sun does not forget a village just because it is small.”  That’s a lesson for Rhode Island. On a small scale, our state already has innovative (and under-resourced) community-based programs and structures that can be built upon and supported, to create a future that feels more like a village than a bureaucratic system (these programs and structures include networks of agencies/nonprofits, juvenile hearing boards, BH Link and neighborhood associations, among others).

Trust, belief, hope and loveListening, dialogue and action. On this Wednesday, in the middle of the week, between the agony of the past and an uncertain future, those are words to remember.

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