This is a special episode of the Antioch Podcast where we stepping away from our regular conversational format to hear from two of our regular team members. Up first, we will hear a chapel presentation given by Dr. Michelle Loyd Paige for Calvin Univerity’s Unlearn week. Unlearn is a yearlong program that kicks off with a week of special presentations on diversity and inclusion at Calvin University. Some of you will remember that a couple episodes back, we released an episode of the podcast that the entire Antioch team did for Unlearn week. Unlearn is a yearlong program that kicks off with a week of special presentations on diversity and inclusion at Calvin University. This talk, based on the book of Jerimiah, captures the sense of longing many people are feeling at this time when were are preparing for a national election in an era of racial unrest and the resurgence of COVID-19 across the United States.
The episode will conclude with a reflection on Psalm 37, a psalm about waiting during unsettled times. This felt appropriate as many of us are anxiously awaiting the outcome of a presidential election which has been rife with language and policy proposals of concern to people committed to Biblical Antiracism.
In antiracism conversations, there sometimes is a tendency for these conversations to focus primarily on the differences between black and white people. There are a lot of reasons for this, but often this black-white binary overlooks those representing “middle voices” in antiracism conversations. While the popular term “People of Color” lumps all non-white people into a single category, the term “middle voices” is starting to emerge in antiracism circles as a way to signify that not all experiences of people of color are the same. For those not familiar with the term, “middle voices,” the term is meant to represent those people groups who are neither black nor white, including (but not limited to) indigenous peoples, Latino communities, Asian ethnic groups, people whose ancestry hails from the Middle East, as well as people who identify as multi-racial or are cross-racial adoptees. This term, “middle voices”, is not meant to suggest that the enormous variety of experiences people who are not black or white have with American racism is uniform in any way. Rather, it leaves the door open for people to tell their own story of how their American racialization experiences are as varied as the places their ancestors called home, and each person’s unique upbringing and physical appearance.
So with this background context, we bring you Josh Holwerda’s story. Josh joined the Antioch Podcast team a number of months ago. He is often the quiet member of the team, the guy who at the beginning of each episode often identifies as a “cross-racially adopted dashing Bengali man.” Josh’s story is a deep and complex one and continuously evolving. We don’t need to tell you about him as he is more than capable of this, so we thought that we would take this moment for him to tell all of you a little more about his story in his own words.
We are in the final days before a deeply divisive election. Tempers are high, and it seems as though every few days something alarming makes the news. The day before we recorded this episode, an armed militia was arrested in our city and across our state for plotting to kidnap our governor, take her to an undisclosed location in Wisconsin to put her on trial, and destroy bridges in the process to delay law enforcement who might have tried to stop them. It is a tense time in Michigan, and in our deeply purple community in Grand Rapids, relationships are strained in families, friendships and churches. I don’t think we are alone here. The country is deeply divided, and Chrisitans too are divided. 81% of Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump in 2015, and current polling suggests this trend will continue in this election. Many white Christians still to this day do not recognize Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about non-white people groups to be racist. And, since Donald Trump took office, white Christians are now less likely than they were a year before to want to do anyting about racism, according to a recent study by the Barna Institute. This is deeply troubling.
Into this context Calvin University invited the Antioch Podcast to participate in their yearly Unlearn 365 program which aims to educate both the college and the community about matters pertaining to diversity, inclusion and antiracism. We commonly receive feedback from our listeners telling us that they wish that they too could have conversations like we have on the Antioch podcast with their friends… but in this tense political climate, they don’t know how. So, because of this, we decided to talk about this very thing in an episode we recorded live before a virtual audience in a conversation we called “Antiracism and Friendship in the Age of Donald Trump.”
In this series, we have been looking at things that white people and people of color can do to “fix” racism, so to speak. In this last episode of the “I Can Fix It” series, we will address the last suggestion for white people, a suggestion called “take action.” By this point in the journey, author Damali Ayo is assuming that white people ready to “take action” have developed lifestyle practices of admitting they have a race and therefore are knowledgeable and comfortable talking about their whiteness. These white people know how to listen to people of color, and make it a practice to continue listening at all times. These white people have taken the initiative to do their own self-education, and have broadened their experiences to have routine meaningful connections with people of color throughout their week. These are white people, who now are ready, to “take action” and do something to fight racism.
Our multiethnic team was all present to talk about this topic as we gathered around the microphones to make this final recording of the “I Can Fix It” series.
Some weeks are harder than others to do antiracism work, and this was one of those weeks. To give you a sense of the setting, we recorded this conversation just days after the verdict on the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Breonna grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where several of us are from, so her death carries with it a local connection, though none of us know Breonna or members of her family directly.
It was good to be in the presence of friends, to share our hearts and process together. We talked about the struggles we are having in this moment, and in the end, shared a little with each other about what is giving us hope in this time of racial tension and great uncertainty.
What you will hear is our unfiltered conversation about Biblical Antiracism, among the members of our multiracial team who was able to gather around the microphones. Listeners should note that there is a passing reference to the fact that we just finished the “I Can Fix It” series. Due to the fact that the nation is grieving the fact that no police offices were charged with shooting Breonna while she slept in the bed of her own home, we decided to release this episode early. The final episode of the “I Can Fix It” series will be released next week, following this episode.
In this series, we have been looking at a document called “I CAN FIX IT”, compiled by artist and author Damali Ayo of things that white people and people of color can do to “fix” racism, so to speak. This week, we pick up the balance of last week’s conversation where we began discussing how people of color need to “Take Care” in order to “fix” racism. So… if you haven’t heard episode 102, hit pause, cue up that episode, and listen to the first part of our conversation. We are diving right back in where we left off, as Michelle brings us back to the conversation where members of our team talked about what resonated with them about the suggestions in Damali’s piece.
In this series, we have been looking at things that white people and people of color can do to “fix” racism, so to speak. This week, we return to Damali Ayo’s piece “I Can Fix It” to explore the last suggestion for people of color, a suggestion Damali calls “Take Care.” Racism, and combatting it, can take a toll. Perhaps not surprisingly, our multiracial team had a lot to say, so we kept the microphones on for a couple of hours as we talked about how we “take care” in this season of increased racial tension in America. We will share our entire conversation with you over this episode, as well as next week’s episode.
This week we return to our “I Can Fix It” series, a series that looks at concrete things that white people and people of color can do to “fix” racism so to speak. We pick up where we left off in Episode 99, on step 4 of the 5 steps white people can do to become better at understanding racism, and I want to put these steps into an antiracism context a moment, so you can step back and see the larger picture here.
Biblical Antiracism involves three distinct but inter-related aspects: Acquiring Knowledge, Unlearning Internalized Racism, and Changing Oppressive Systems. The tools to accomplish these three aims are Education (learning history of racial oppression and knowing the areas where racial disparities and oppression remain), Conversation (about Internalized Racism), and Advocacy (to address systems that perpetuate racial disparities). Steps 1-3 have more or less been dealing with the first aspect of Biblical Antiracism, which is acquiring knowledge through education and listening to people of color. Today’s discussion of Step 4 (Broaden Your Experience) examines how to begin equitable relationships with people of color, some of which may eventually evolve into mutually-enjoyable friendships. Step 5, which we will be getting to in a couple episodes, will then explore how a white person could begin to engage in advocating for systemic changes that hopefully promote racial equity.
So, as usual, our multiethnic team once again gathered around the microphones for our weekly conversation filled with laughter, storytelling and vulnerability as we talk about today’s topic.
The Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, Glory Edim (Author). NOMINATED FOR AN NAACP IMAGE AWARD • An inspiring collection of essays by black women writers, curated by the founder of the popular book club Well-Read Black Girl, on the importance of recognizing ourselves in literature.
This is episode 100 of the Antioch Podcast. This week we take a pause from our “I Can Fix It” series to reflect as a team (minus Josh, who was handing a last-minute emergency) on what makes our cross racial conversations about Biblical Antiracism possible. Many times after we stop recording, our team sticks around to talk about why our conversations feel energizing, refreshing, and therapeutic… and unfortunately – rare. What makes conversations about faith and race so difficult for so many of us? How come these talks about identity and experience rarely even happen between people of the same racialized groups if they happen at all? Why do these kinds of cross-racial conversations, so often filled with tension and defensiveness, not happen when our team turns on the microphones to record, and then sticks around for hours after to share laughs, prayer-requests, stories, or even more vulnerable questions we don’t yet know how to talk about on the podcast? When our team realized this was happening for us, it seemed like a beautiful mystery that we kept trying to understand a little better.
So this episode is another unscripted recording where we talk about what makes these rare and beautiful conversations about Biblical Antiracism possible. It isn’t the final conversation that we will have on this topic, but we wanted you, the listeners, to hear the kinds of talks we have most weeks after the mics are turned off.
This week the Antioch Podcast team returned to our discussion of artist and author damali ayo’s piece “I Can Fix It” – and ended up spending the hour talking about the ramifications of one sentence in the document, a sentence written to white people about something they can do to “fix” racism, which reads as follows:
White people – broaden your experience. Caution: please don’t do this until you’ve successfully completed steps 1-3.
Pause a moment and think about this. What could it mean to “successfully complete” steps in combatting racism? I’m recording this prologue to the episode the morning after our recording session, and I’ve been thinking about our conversation since we stopped recording yesterday, reflecting on what was said. This was one of the conversations on the Antioch Podcast I personally will need to return to once in a while, because what we ended up discussing was what individuals and institutions could look like if they had what we ended up terming a “racial conversion.”
What does it mean to have a conversion? Who in scripture had a conversion experience, particularly about inclusion, favoritism, or who belongs in the body of Christ?
For the sake of the listener, know that I have edited out some of the long pauses that happened during this recording as we waited with each other to think deeply about the idea of having “racial conversions.” As always, you are hearing our unscripted conversation, verbalizing our imperfect thoughts as we talk about this challenging topic.
This week the Antioch Podcast team returns to our discussion of artist and author damali ayo’s piece “I Can Fix It” – a distillation of the opinions of 2000 people she polled to get ideas about how to address individual acts of racism. This week, we talk about how people of color need to “build ties” as one way to “fix” racism. This “liberated space” episode is full of laughter and storytelling as we were in good spirits during this recording… and stay to the end when Pastor Reggie starts to PREACH!
This is the 5th episode in our series entitled “I Can Fix It” in which the Antioch Podcast team discusses the “Now Art” piece by artist and author damali ayo. Damali Ayo polled 2000 people for their ideas about how to fix racism, and curated their responses into her written piece “I Can Fix It.” We’ve been going back and forth between things that white people and people of color can do to combat racism, but this week – the suggestion is the SAME: Educate Yourself. Our team talks about the things they are doing to educate themselves, as well as why education is ongoing work for anyone serious about Biblical antiracism.
“I Can Fix It!” by damali ayo
Harvard Implicit Association Test
Hello! Welcome to the Antioch Podcast, conversations about Biblical Anti-Racism.
My name is Eric Nykamp
This week the Antioch Podcast team returns to our discussion of artist and author damali ayo’s piece “I Can Fix It” – a distillation of the opinions of 2000 people she polled to get ideas about how to address individual acts of racism. Damali lists 5 things white people can do, as well as 5 things people of color can do in “I Can Fix It, ” and our team is taking turns jumping between the two lists. This week, we discuss thing #2 People of Color can do to address individual acts of racism – speak out.
In the past few episodes of the podcast, we have used the expression “Yeah… but” as a shorthand way to express the way white people often interrupt people of color’s narratives to explain racism to discount or question the accuracy of the information they are saying.
These “yeah… but” interruptions get in the way of white people really listening to what people of color are saying, and they are a common enough problem that we decided to devote an entire episode to hearing a pastor address some of the most common “yeah… but”s from a scriptural perspective.
This recording is from my pastor, Joy Bonnema, who addressed our majority-white multiethnic congregation several weeks ago, following the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests in our city and around the nation in response to the murders of George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, and Ahmad Aubrey.
Let’s go now, and listen to this message, initially titled “Beyond Kumbaya”, but which our church has affectionately called the “Yeah…but” sermon since.
This is the third episode in our series entitled “I Can Fix It” in which the Antioch Podcast team discusses the “Now Art” piece by artist and author damali ayo. Damali Ayo polled 2000 people for their ideas about how to end individual racism, and curated their responses into her written piece “I Can Fix It.” The first half is five things white people in the dominant American culture can do to end racism, and the second half covers five things people of color in the United States can do. Today’s topic is the second thing damail suggests white people can do to end racism – listen. This was a particularly vulnerable discussion this week in which we talked about how to listen well to one another, how listening has impacted us as individuals, as well as the nature of our cross-racial friendships.
As always, our discussion was full of vulnerability, storytelling and theological reflections mixed with laughter and sincerity.
This is the second episode of our “I Can Fix It” series based on the document by the same name by author and artist Damali Ayo.
Damali polled 2000 people for their thoughts on how to end individual racism for this piece. She curated their responses into this list of five things individual people can do to end racism. The first half is five things white people in the dominant American culture can do to end racism, and the second half covers five things people of color in the United States can do. We decided to switch back and forth between these lists for our discussion topics. This week, we discuss suggestion number one for people of color, called “Get Real.” Once again, the Antioch Podcast team has a friendly and vulnerable discussion with our usual mix of laughter, theology and thoughtfulness.
We are in a time of transition. Demonstrations against racism in policing are decreasing around the country, and while the attention-grabbing headlines of racial unrest are diminishing, many white people are beginning to ask the deeper questions about how to fix America’s problems with racial injustice.
Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige brought a great document to the Antioch Team this week titled “I Can Fix It!”. “I Can Fix It!” is the result of participatory art/performance projects about race and racism artist and writer Damali Ayo created she called “Now Art.” “I Can Fix It!” is a curated list of five things individual people can do to end racism. The first half is five things white people in the dominant American culture can do to end racism, and the second half covers five things people of color in the United States can do. As you will hear in this recording, we thought we would be able to cover part one in one episode, but by the end of our rich conversation, we decided to take our time and talk about this document over a series of episodes, to allow us to have an in-depth, thoughtful, and laughter-filled conversation the way we do here on the podcast.
There is a lot going on right now. For weeks the United States has been making news for the racial disparities and unrest in this country. For those whose jobs or passions lead them to antiracism advocacy, as demonstrations wind down, the longer, less attention-grabbing work of antiracism education, negotiation, and policy-making has taken on a new sense of urgency. For those involved in this long work, the new demand for these kinds of services on top of all that was being done before can be exhausting. In many ways, those already involved in antiracism advocacy are the first responders and essential workers addressing the unaddressed pandemic of racism which has never been purged from our country. It often seems counterintuitive to rest during moments like this, but we must or risk burning out prematurely. We invited a new friend, Josh, to the table to join the rest of the team as we talked about how to practice self-care in this season of urgency.
For those of you new to the podcast, our multiethnic team is comprised of Dr. Michelle Loyd Paige, Pastor Reggie Smith, PhD, Susie Dixon, MDiv, Libby Huizenga MDiv, and myself. All of us are active in antiracism initiatives at various Christian institutions in and around the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. We gather at the end of each week to catch up on our weeks, and have a good talk about Biblical Antiracism.
Last week, Episode 89, we began this conversation talking about our emotions following the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests that followed. After talking with each other about how we were processing these events, we pick up the conversation this episode by talking about a local peaceful Black Lives Matter march that happened in the wealthy, 95% white neighborhood of East Grand Rapids.
This is the second week of continuous demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, protests calling for changes in, or the replacement of, police forces in the United States. The members of the Antioch team are, outside of this podcast, doing antiracism work in various places, spaces and institutions … and when we gathered, we were all very, very tired. We decided to turn on the microphones, and sit down together – virtually – for what Pastor Reggie called, “Truth talk.”
Peaceful protests and frustrated rioters are filling the streets now for days all over the United States. People of color have a lot to feel angry about:
the long history of police officers who misuse their power
the long history of government systems seemingly ignoring the continued concerns of people of color, resulting in the impoverishment of health and home.
the long history of institutional racism that focus more on the comfort of the white-but-numerically dwindling majority rather than creating accessible, useful, and attractive products and policies to serve people of color as well.
The long history of interpersonal racism, intentional and unintentional, spanning from overt discrimination to microaggressions, which white people often perpetrate – sometimes unaware, and sometimes very aware.
This is the second part of a two-part interview where our team gathered with special guest, Terry Dixon, a Lieutenant in the Grand Rapids Police Department and president of the Grand Rapids chapter of NOBLE, an organization for police officers of color in the United States. If you missed the first part of the interview, go back and listen to episode 87 before returning to this one. Our team gathered with Terry around the microphones to talk about our responses to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officers which onlookers documented on cellphone video.
The day after this interview, Lieutenant Dixon was called back from his 14-day quarantine in response to violent riots that broke out in the heart of the city where he serves. He has been serving every day since.
As if it wasn’t enough that Coronavirus was killing people of color in great numbers, for the past several weeks, African-American’s have watched film documenting the killing and harassment of their community. A man gets shot going for a jog, a woman shot while sleeping in their own bed, a man harassed while birdwatching, and another black man is slowly murdered over 9 minutes by police offices while crowds mere feet away filming the situation begged them to stop. The tension has boiled over into the streets, as it has so many times in the past, with people protesting in cities across the country … and some peaceful protests devolving into riots, property destruction and looting by a minority of those present.
Most of us have heard this quote often in the past few days, but the quote by Martin Luther King Jr. bears repeating. He famously said,
“Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. [Martin Luther King Jr., “The Other America”]
Unfortunately, these words said in 1967 are just as poignant today as they were when they were first spoken.
The team gathered today with special guest, Terry Dixon, a Lieutennant in the Grand Rapids Police Department and president of the Grand Rapids chapter of NOBLE, an organization for police officers of color in the United States. We gathered around the microphones, hit record, and began our conversation by simply checking in with each other after this heavy week.
I woke up this morning to racism making the news… again. In one instance, a white woman felt her life was being threatened by a black man who asked her to leash her dog while he was birdwatching in New York’s Central Park. When she refused and said she was calling the police, he filmed her to provide his own alibi. Another African-American man was himself filmed by bystanders in Minneapolis as he was being arrested. The arresting officer pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his neck. The man shouted, “I can’t breathe” echoing the words of Eric Gardner, and like Gardner, died shortly after the incident.
Within the past week, another African American woman, Breonna Taylor, was shot while she and her boyfriend were sitting in her apartment. The police had entered the wrong residence using a “no knock warrant,” searching for people dealing drugs. The address the police were supposed to be going to was 10-miles away. Breonna’s killing seemed to be a repeat of the Bothanm Jean murder from a couple of years ago. History appears to be repeating itself, in ever tightening circuits, and things need to change … now.
This week the full Antioch team, Pastor Reggie Smith, Libby Huizenga, Susie Dixon, Michelle Loyd-Paige, and myself , all gathered virtually to talk about the last chapter in the Color of Compromise, a chapter focused on solutions for changing the status quo of racism in the United States.
On July 18, 2013, President Obama gave a press conference in response to the recent hearing about the shooting death of Travon Martin, an unarmed black teenager walking alone in a neighborhood by the civilian George Zimmerman – an act deemed legal by the courts under Florida’s now-infamous “stand your ground” law. The population of the United States somewhat divided along racial lines in their opinions about the outcome of the case with many people of color becoming outraged, and many whites believing that race had little to do with the outcome of the case. In the aftermath of the court-case, President Obama made the following historic commentary to the predominantly-white country. Let me give the direct quote:
“… I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to [the shooting of Travon Martin] and how people are feeling. You know, when Travon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Travon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African- American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.
In contrast, many pastors of predominantly-white churches at the time did not address this issue with their congregations. For people of color who belonged to these congregations, this was the opening round of a series of events that signaled to people of color that white churches and multiethnic- but-still majority-white congregations were deaf to their concerns.
In recent weeks, video emerged from Georgia of another young, unarmed black man – Ahmed Arbury – shot to death by two white civilians who pursued him while he was on a jog, in what they say was an attempted citizen’s arrest. The country again is expressing outrage. Courts have not yet made a final decision on this case, though the early legal handling of the case by local authorities minimized the significance of the event. Most of us would not know of the case now had it not been for video of the actual shooting that emerged from a bystander months after the event took place.
Today, the echoes of Travon Martin reverberate within earshot of the present. How did churches respond to Ahmed in the Sunday following these revelations?
This episode of the Antioch Podcast we will look at some examples, and talk with some pastors, about how they chose to address the killing of Ahmed Arbury with their congregations. Many of you submitted examples of how your church, or churches you know, responded to this tragic event. What follows is not a critique or a ranking of these responses. Rather, we want to explore the stories of how pastors wrestle with – and make choices about – how to talk about the weighty issues of racial injustice and hate crimes with their congregations.
Suzie and I sat down with two faith leaders, Pastor Joy Bonnema, Campus Pastor at Madison Church’s North Campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and John Williams, the Director of Racial Reconciliation at Fellowship Church in Monrovia, California. We will end this episode with audio of a staff devotion, led by pastor Albert Tate of Fellowship Monrovia, which John referred to during our conversation. This spontaneous devotional was shared with the staff in the immediate days following the public release of the video of Ahmed Aubrey’s murder.
This moment in history is densely riddled with the bullet-holes of racism. In the late 20th Century, many churches became interested in striving to become more racially mixed, a movement prominently led by the evangelical Promise Keepers gathering of the 1990’s. In the early 20th America elected its first black president, and at that moment, it appeared that racial progress was really starting to take hold in some areas of life. This sentiment, where it existed, was short-lived.
Beginning in 2012, with the popularity of smartphones and social media, there was a tremendous rise in publicly-documented killings of black men, and the #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement rose up in response. In 2015, in a close election, the significant help of a the large voting block of white evangelicals gave Donald Trump the needed majority of votes to win the election. His campaign was one of the most racially inflammatory and divisive in decades, and his subsequent presidency was similarly marked by frequently-racially divisive language and policies, often having a disproportionately oppressive effect on people of color and the communities in which they live.
Susie, Libby, Michelle and I gathered around the mics, discussing this chapter about the past and its impact on the present.