In September 2007, Sylvia Morrison
joined CPT’s Support Team as our first Undoing Racism Coordinator. With Sylvia’s leadership, CPT embarked upon
an Undoing Racism “Audit.” Between May
2008 and February 2009, Valentina Satvedi, Harley Eagle and others from
Mennonite Central Committee’s Anti-Racism Program walked with us to facilitate
a clearer self-understanding on which to base undoing racism work within our
organization. This unconventional
process culminated in two days of strategic planning.
Could This Be Our
evening of February 10, 2009, has finally arrived. For several months now, I have been thinking,
talking about, and planning for this evening and the next two days – the time
set aside for CPT’s Undoing Racism Strategic Planning. Thank God it’s finally here! I am excited to see how these days will
unfold as the Spirit leads.
People come from many locations, some
having traveled all day. I watch as
folks enter the room and greet each other. All are tired; most are hungry. We gather in a circle, give thanks and help
ourselves to the delicious supper Esther has prepared. I eat very little…I am already full. Full of excitement, anxiety, fear, tears. Full of questions and answers. Full of great expectation and the Spirit, who
always sustains me. This is a holy
Over the next couple hours we introduce
ourselves and engage in community building exercises. Individuals share thoughts and feelings about
the racial justice audit report, which our consultants, Valentina and Harley,
recently submitted after months of observing CPT life and work. Participants reflect on what or whom we have
brought to this space, and what we hope for the next two days. Our collective hope is that our engagements
with each other and the audit report will help us develop a strategic plan to
create an anti-racist identity and culture in CPT. That will be an historic moment!
The next morning we re-gather – 23 of us
committed to the task of strategic planning. We have read the report and discussed with our
teammates how to move CPT forward on our undoing racism journey. Some bring questions that must be answered
before they return to team. We have much
to do and very little time, it seems. Let’s get to work.
The whole morning and part of the
afternoon the consultants present the audit report. They share no summaries from collated
checklist responses, no percentages or charts, no maps or graphs. Instead they tell the story of conducting the
audit in a variety of settings, from Peacemaker Training and the biannual
retreat, to Steering Committee meetings, the CPT website and internal resources. Harley
and Valentina present a slide show depicting statements, images, and music –
The ART of CPT. This is not the typical audit report.
Then Valentina and Harley open space for
the group to share our reflections on the presentation. As the tears stream down my face, my body
shakes uncontrollably and I wonder why I am weeping. I feel fear and gratitude simultaneously. Since September 2007, I have taken a risk, a
leap of faith to go on a frightful undoing racism journey with people I did not
know and who did not know me. Now we are
at an important sign post on this journey, and I am afraid that because this
process is so unfamiliar and unconventional, people may lose faith in the
process or trust in my leadership. They
may turn aside. Still, I am grateful
Harley and Valentina are also taking the same risk.
I once heard a friend say that when you
find yourself crying so hard it’s because the Spirit has taken you over. The Spirit always sustains me! I inhale and exhale deeply a few times; my
tears stop flowing and my body relaxes. Now I can listen to my friends share their
reflections. Are the CPTers in the room
still walking forward? What I hear opens
into another holy moment.
The CPTers present express various
emotions and thoughts. They all say how
different this audit report is from what they expected, yet they embrace it
because of their commitment to the process of creating an anti-racist CPT. They express gratitude to the consultants for
the respectful, honorable way in which Valentina and Harley conducted the audit. CPTers also expressed affirmation and trust
in my leadership on the journey thus far and their commitment to the future. Could this be our finest hour?
We spend the rest of the afternoon
identifying the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and
threats, based on the audit report and recommendations. The energy level in the room is exhilarating. Undoing racism doesn’t seem so daunting
anymore, or even if it does, there is a feeling of trust that we can journey
together holding each other’s hands. After we have been walking around the room for
an hour, reading and adding to each category on the wall, taking it all in, one
person shouts: “Excuse me, I just noticed something in our list of threats. We are well on our way because WE are our
only threat, and we can take care of that!”
An extremely important revelation, and another fine hour.
A First Nations Elder once said that our
society has put the ‘h’ on ‘our’ and in doing so we do not have enough time
together. I think of this on February
12, the final day of our strategic planning.
During our morning worship, the group listens as I read some letters
past CPTers wrote expressing their hearts’ deep desire for an anti-racist CPT. Harley plays the flute while we reflect on
the question “What does your heart long for?”
Deep and real sharing emerges, and the group moves to another level of
commitment and trust.
The rest of the day is a dynamic, exhilarating
roller coaster ride as we discuss and strive for consensus on strategic
directions for an anti-racist CPT. We
ask hard questions, challenge each other, take risks in making statements, ask
for clarification sometimes. We notice
when power is not shared appropriately or when other dynamics of oppression are
present, and we deal with that respectfully. Some step back at times so others will step
forward, or stop speaking for a while so others can speak. At times the energy shifts with worry that we
will not complete the process in time for folks to catch their flights…the ‘h’
is still on ‘our’ time together. But I
know our facilitator is highly skilled. We
refocus and continue to challenge, question, affirm and wrestle together. Staying with the process, by the final hour we
have articulated our strategic direction in seven statements. This has indeed been our finest (h)our
Directions For Shaping An Anti-Racist Identity For CPT
1. Resourcing the wellbeing of CPT and
2. Cultivating a CPT culture that is
anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and anti-colonial;
3. Articulating and sharing a transformed
mission for CPT;
4. Honoring the voices of our partners
throughout CPT communication vehicles;
5. Widening ownership of CPT;
6. Empowering CPTers through clear,
accountable processes of decision making and leadership;
7. Making all of CPT accountable to our
partners in an open and transparent way.
is committed to expanding the diversity of participants in our delegations. To enable us to assist interested persons who
have been disadvantaged by racism and otherwise could not afford to participate
in a CPT delegation, we need your help! Please consider sending a generous donation
earmarked for the Delegation Scholarship Fund.