Floyd Friends Meeting
Update on Our Work on Inclusion and Anti-Racism
We have been encouraged to share an update with the BYM Working Group on Racism regarding our work on inclusion and anti-racism. Our last report covered our participation in (and encouragement of other white participation in) the Rainbow Tea at Mt. Zion Christian Church (one of two African American churches in Floyd County) as a positive way to protest a motorcycle ride by Confederate Nation from Bedford to Floyd, as well as the first Martin Luther King Day celebration in Floyd County.
These were the first events that we know of that consciously brought black and white residents together. We believe that the essential element in making this work was the early participation of white people who already had a relationship with the black community; in our case this was with churches. In other areas the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, or some predominantly black organization could also be the entry point to working with the black community as long as the white individuals making the overture are known to have a sincere interest and commonality.
The Rainbow Tea and the first Martin Luther King Day celebration led to two other activities in which members of Floyd Friends participated but were not the organizers. During the spring semester in 2018, Springhouse Community School, a local independent school, arranged for its students to participate in two discussion sessions at Mt. Zion Christian Church, and the general public was invited. The program was called “Courageous Conversations” and invited members of Mt. Zion and other black people in attendance to describe for the students what it is like to be black in Floyd County. In late summer, Mt. Zion, Floyd Presbyterian, and Springhouse jointly sponsored a day of fellowship called “Unity in the Community” which took place on a Saturday at Mt. Zion followed by a youth-led service Sunday morning at Floyd Presbyterian. Floyd Presbyterian has also hosted two other small events for the youth of both congregations.
We take these events as signs that the effort to build relationships across racial lines is taking on a life of its own.
In early summer of 2018 Little River Missionary and Floyd Friends organized a program called “Quit Quitting”. The theme was selected by the pastor of Little River Missionary, who wanted attenders to share stories of perseverance. The program was hosted by that church, and the church hall was packed.
The second Martin Luther King Day celebration was held in January 2019, and the organizers expected a larger attendance so the event was moved from the public library to the auditorium and cafeteria at Floyd High School. We were delighted that this year’s event drew three times the number of the 2018 event, about 150 compared to 50 last year, and again approximately 50-50 black and white attendees.
The Little River Missionary Baptist pastor picked the speaker, and members of the black churches had leadership roles in the event, as emcee, leader of the invocation, and song leader of the Black National Anthem. This made the black community more visible in leadership roles than is the norm in our area. We see this as a positive development.
The member of Floyd Friends who was the initiator of white involvement in the original event (the Rainbow Tea) and who has worked on many of the subsequent events began to feel drained by the effort and asked to be replaced. Another member of Floyd Friends agreed to take her place, and the other individual (a white attender at Little River Missionary) who has also helped organize many of the events agreed to continue in a leadership role now that she knows she will have help. She is the primary link to the black churches in Floyd County.
We hope to have another event this summer sponsored by Floyd Friends and Little River Missionary Baptist. We want to continue to create the opportunity for members of both races, who rarely spend time in each other’s company outside of the public school, to get to know each other and build the kind of relationships that permit honest discussions about race. We also hope that the Martin Luther King Day celebration will become an annual event co-sponsored by all the stake holders of the previous bi-racial community events.