Opinion%3A+Uplifting+Black+Voices

Opinion: Uplifting Black Voices

April 15, 2021

This entire year has been especially traumatic for the black community, especially the past three weeks. We are watching Daunte Wright be shot and killed on camera, we are watching Caron Nazario be mistreated while being Black in uniform, and we are watching and hearing George Floyd over and over as the Derek Chauvin trial continues. As we look around for support from the Westtown community, it is nowhere to be found. No one seems to be talking about this: no emails, no meetings, no classroom discussions. While we understand that anyone can voice what’s on their mind in Meeting for Worship without needing special programming, we believe it is important that we call a meeting that focuses on blackness and black issues. It would send a message that we are thinking of these things, and it would provide a space for reflection with these issues in mind.

 When asking for this space, the motion was denied. The explanation for this was that, “ in Quakerism the meeting for worship is a communal gathering for our individual seeking; it really is not about conversation or communal processing.” In a class discussion, a classmate responded to this reasoning by stating, “Convenient that “individual seeking” doesn’t force white people to confront their own whiteness.”  Four years ago, students protested the silencing of Black voices in the Meeting House and at Westtown. Four years later, we are doing it again. 

Black students work tirelessly to uplift this community. In return, the community does little to uplift black students. Westtown was vocal over the summer of 2020 as black students and alumni put pressure on them to do so through @blackatwesttownschool and the events of that summer. Since then, it has been silent. We make empty promises to speak about these issues often and to continue to educate ourselves, and then we are silent in the face of great injustice. It is important now more than ever to show our black community that Westtown truly does care about them, that we truly value black voices, and that we truly want to do the work and have the conversations necessary to uplift black voices.

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  • B

    Becky Winant ‘64May 26, 2021 at 7:18 am

    I am saddened by what you have written. I am shocked that Westtown did not welcome discussing the issues that impact and reflect who we are as human beings, and as a community.

    Reply
  • W

    wendi granthamMay 25, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    I hear you, and support you.

    Reply
  • W

    wendi granthamMay 25, 2021 at 11:17 pm

    I hear, and support you.

    Reply
  • W

    wendi granthamMay 25, 2021 at 12:05 am

    I’m in the class of 1985, and I support you.
    There are over 130 Black Alumni who stand in solidarity with you, who have been trying to help you, and the school, since last July, and Westtown has done nothing but obstruct, refuse the sound solutions we’ve suggested, fail to care for you, and insist that you are fine. We know that you are not. I’m terribly sorry that you have had the experiences you’ve had, and that Westtown has become what it has. I’m sorry that this is what you’ve experienced of Quakerism. It can be much larger and better than this, and, hopefully, it will be again.

    Reply
  • S

    Shane Hadden '99May 23, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    “ in Quakerism the meeting for worship is a communal gathering for our individual seeking; it really is not about conversation or communal processing.”

    This statement comes from either outstanding ignorance or is an outright lie. Quakers certainly do use called meetings for community discussion of all kinds of crises. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a rather authoritative Quaker body, has done so for things such as discussing the Quaker response to the Afghanistan war. Westtown itself also has done so many times: after a traumatic event on campus, after Columbine, after 9/11, and on and on. Also, there is meeting for business, which is (quite obviously) not about individual seeking either. These are just the examples I can remember personally witnessing.

    Please continue in what is a real Quaker (and Westtown) tradition: Speaking truth to power.

    Reply
  • H

    Hope clarkMay 23, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Please keep me up to date and let me know how I can support Black voices at Westtown. Thank you

    Reply
  • J

    Jamie McVickarMay 23, 2021 at 12:09 am

    I’m curious as to whether anyone there is aware of the concept of a (Quaker) Clearness Committee? It’s outrageous to me that the school hasn’t allowed this issue to be brought forward for further threshing and discerning (laying out all my (least) favorite Quaker expressions here), but a request for a clearness committee should NEVER be denied. Here is one link explaining the process: https://www.fgcquaker.org/resources/clearness-committees-what-they-are-and-what-they-do.

    Good luck to you all. Your issue is just. And it doesn’t even matter if the school is to blame in terms of systemic problems. Pointing fingers isn’t even necessary. You can tell the school you only want to move forward, not look backward. Let’s hope the school allows this arc to bend toward justice.

    Thank you all for taking on this important cause.

    Reply
  • D

    Daniel SandersMay 22, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    Worship as an individual only exercise is not a contemporary view of Quakerism and intellectually and spiritually lazy. Furthermore, it does not support the inclusiveness and following of the Light that is at the core of the Quaker belief. Shame on the school leadership. A motivated leadership would use more contemporary interpretations and formats like a specially appointed meeting, worship sharing, or meeting for clearness. You can do better Westtown.

    Reply
  • P

    Parthenia IzzardMay 22, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    I am a Westtown graduate of color who supports your efforts and is encouraged by your article. I found this past Alumnae weekend interesting.

    Reply
  • T

    Tim LooseMay 22, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    It saddens me that Meeting For Worship is described as about “individuals”. Meeting is about the collective. I have been in so many Westtown Meetings which were about issues which were about issues facing the community. Meeting For Worship should be all about healing the community.

    Reply
  • S

    Sarah CappelliMay 22, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    I am a practicing U.U. and a Westtown alumni. You can do more. My congregation has voted to post a Black Lives Matter banner on our church property, and we are all doing work to understand the process of anti racism. Ibrim X.Kendi has written a book called Stamped from the Beggining , the definitive History of Racism and it comes in Adult version , teen version and kid version. We read this as a group read at our U.U. R.E. group 6th thru 8th grade and in adult groups. Many U.Us are very similar to Quakers. You can do this and it is timely and essential that you get to it. Our congregations have been working with anti racism education for lay leadership and congregations and the denomination intensely for at least the last 5 years. There are many liberal religious resources Quakers could use from the Unitarian Universalist Church. I highly recommend that you borrow and learn from the leadership of the U.Us because there is a lot of work to be done and now is a moment that should not be wasted, but seized to make progress in this area. I look forward to hearing and seeing evidence that you all leaned in and created positive change in dismantling white supremacist culture.

    Reply
  • D

    David WertheimerMay 22, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    Friends: As a former Westtown faculty member (1977-1980), I would like to express my concern about the current situation, and the essential need to respond to the issues being raised by the voices of current Black students. During my time at the school, I can only imagine the challenges that the few Black students faced in attending and dealing with an institution that had not yet even begun to address the issues of internalized, interpersonal, structural and systemic racism. Quakers can be very self-righteous in thinking that they are, as a group, immune from the impacts of racism, but this is far from the truth, and it is essential that we address the history and impacts of racism both within the Society of Friends and the institutions that have been created over the centuries. Until we do so, our ability to move towards a goal of antiracist institutions with the capacities to respond in a truly affirmative and supportive way to the concerns being raised by current students and many alumni cannot and will not occur.

    Reply
  • A

    Ann Byerly Marlowe, ‘79May 22, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    I am shocked by what I have read and wholly agree with the authors.

    Reply
  • C

    Cornelia KietzmanMay 22, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Please count me as one white alum in full agreement. Now and for as long as it takes to strip racism of its persistent undermining power, black voices and black experiences must be central to the work that Westtown is about.

    Reply
  • K

    Kent JulyeMay 22, 2021 at 5:02 pm

    I am class of 1980. I am here to support you.

    Kent

    Reply
  • H

    Harve NicholsMay 22, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    I am so pissed right now. We, a group of black alumni, have been trying to help support the youth by trying to engage the school only to be fed a bunch of rhetoric in what feels like infomercials. If you are not allowed to gather for Meeting for Worship, we will host our own.

    I am pissed right now.

    Reply