Over the next few weeks, the Leadership Team will be sharing brief introductions to our work with SURJ, along with a resource (or several!) that we have found helpful along the way, or would recommend to folks new to racial justice work. Without further ado, meet Joella:
I first learned the word “intersectional” about 10 years ago in a Women’s Studies course. I had identified as a feminist since adolescence, and, completely unaware of my privilege as a white woman, it took until I was nearly 30 years old to understand that the scope of my feminism was limited to those who looked like me and moved about the world in the same ways I did. I committed to learning about race, privilege and oppression, and the systems in place that keep perpetuating all of it. Most of this education, and the fellowship around it I could find, took place on line. When I first learned about SURJ, I optimistically sought out a local chapter, but came up empty-handed. Like others I’ve since met, I considered trying to start one, but the prospects of doing so alone while working and raising young children felt too daunting.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I happened upon plans for a local march in response to a call from Shaundel Spivey, a local Black leader and activist, asking white folks to show up in the aftermath of Philando Castille’s death. At long last, I was able to connect with local folks who were learning and growing into the same values I was. Over time, our chapter has deepened relationships within our ranks, as well as with our accountability partners and businesses and people of color in our community. Together, we grapple with concepts we know that we will never understand as intimately as our friends and neighbors of color do. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We help each other see when we’ve misstepped, and we are helping our community to become more equitable and just by following the lead and supporting the work of racially marginalized local organizers and organizations. We have taken in and reflected on criticisms and worked to be intentional in righting our wrongs and the wrongs of our mostly white community. The road ahead of us is long, but by working together in authentic and accountable relationship with each other and our community, we stay the course.
One of resources I value most is the writer and activist, Ijeoma Oluo. In her book, So You Want to Talk About Race, she addresses a significant number of race-related topics from general concepts, like Intersectionality, to specific issues, like Affirmative Action. Her approach offers a depth of knowledge without being overladen with statistics and academia, and is easily digestible without being superficial. She offers tips for discussing these topics with friends and family in ways that minimize defensiveness and invite curiosity.