Monday, October 12, 2015

Fellowship of Friends of African Descent -- 2015 Fellowship Gathering Clerk’s Letter and Epistle

Dear Friends,
The Fellowship of Friends of African Descent was born out of the Worldwide Gathering of Friends of African Descent organized by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's Racial Concerns Committee in 1990. Since then, the Fellowship has held gatherings in various U.S. cities and in the year 2000, in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica, bringing Friends of African descent together to worship, nurture ourselves and our families, and to respond to issues of concern.

In this our 25th year of existence, we gathered in Philadelphia in August 2015 to re-establish the regularity of our gatherings and to address issues of concern, including the incidences of violence against African Americans in cities and towns throughout the United States.

In addition to me, our new leadership team includes Laura Boyce, Assistant Clerk; Claudia Wair, Recording Clerk; Robert Thomas, Treasurer; and Marille Thomas, Communications Committee Clerk.

We invite Friends of African descent who are just learning about the Fellowship to visit our Facebook page, read the attached Epistle and hopefully join us next August when we will meet again in Philadelphia.

In the spirit of peace,
Francine E. Cheeks, Clerk

2015 Epistle
Fellowship of Friends of African Descent
1515 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA  19102
October 12, 2015

Greetings to Friends everywhere:

The annual session of Fellowship Friends of African Descent convened August 21–23, 2015 at Arch Street Meetinghouse, Philadelphia, PA. Our theme, “Can I Get a Witness? Honoring our Past, Celebrating our Future.”This call for a witness is a prophetic imperative in Acts 1:8.

Affirming the presence of God in all people—Friends settled into an attitude of worshipful listening: listening to each other; listening to the still small voice; and listening to a host of spirit-filled speakers.

We were blessed to hear from Pulitzer Prize winner Harold Jackson, who is the Editorial Page Editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer.  He read from his article, “The Memories of a Black Child in Birmingham,” describing memories of his life as a 9-year-old in 1963 Birmingham. He recalled the violence: marchers beaten and “knocked from their feet by powerful water cannons operated by city firefighters, and then taken to jail.” One of the four little girls killed in the church bombing, Carol Denise McNair, was a friend of his. He recalled the foundation that his family and the Black community provided for him, and noted that such support is no longer present in many communities. “Fifty years later,” he concluded “the hatred has subsided, but it's not gone…. We all must remember the past, so as not to repeat it.” In silence, spoken word, and song we remembered, celebrated, and poured libations honoring we gave thanks for the presence of God, as shown in the lives of our recently departed Friends Noel Palmer, Daisy Palmer, Edward Broadfield, Nancy Peterson, and Jane Cuyler Borgerhoff.

We were heartened by the reports of Paula Rhodes, clerk of the Community, Equality and Justice Committee, Laura Boyce, Associate General Secretary for U.S. Programs, and Paul Ricketts, member of the Community, Equality and Justice Committee. AFSC staff members gave compelling accounts of the essential work the Committee is doing at home and abroad. The work of Peace by Piece engages young people in their communities; particularly important in this time of systemic violence across the nation towards people of African Descent.

Our clerk, Diane Rowley, asked “Where does the Fellowship go from here?” which led to our developing three priorities:
  • Planning a long hoped-for trip to Ghana        
  • Developing a comprehensive Communications and Outreach plan
  • Revisiting the Fellowship’s mission statement
The ensuing discussion produced several concrete goals: Endeavoring to travel to Ghana in August 2017; updating our website and creating an online forum for continuous communication among members; and deliberately incorporating our mission statement into all future activities.

Vanessa Julye reported on the Pre-FGC People of Color Gathering. Feedback from the gathering indicated the importance of the event to those who attend, leading FGC to add the gathering as a budget item. The Friends of Color Center provides materials and support for attenders and is a significant resource. Regional gatherings for people of color give far-flung Friends important face-to-face time. We are extremely grateful for and will continue to support the work of Vanessa and the Ministry on Racism Program. To this end, we have attached a minute to the FGC Central Committee expressing our wholehearted support for the Program.

Ruth Flower of FCNL gave a powerful presentation on Mass Incarceration, detailing the unequal application of justice, the effective for-profit prison lobby, and the numerous alternatives to the current system. We were then treated to hearing Sari Sari Lupe Guinier read from her book "To Face It."

Philip Lord, Clerk of AFSC, delivered the keynote address. He referred to the weekend’s theme as “appropriate and profound” before sharing his experience of having “The Talk,” with his sons; that painful necessity in our society. By telling them that “there’s a prison cell with your name on it,” he related the reality of institutional racism. He spoke of the courage it takes to stand up and be a witness; there are significant risks involved, and all great witnesses make great sacrifices. But no matter the risk, no matter the sacrifice, we are called to be witnesses. Even if we need to step back and take a break, we are called to return, to take on the heavy weight, to change the world with the revolutionary act of being ourselves.

On behalf of the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent,
Francine Cheeks, Clerk

Original here: 

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