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Learner Moved to Explore Service to Prison Inmates

May 1, 2023
Sign in yard in front of tree (brown background - white letters): Racism Has No Home Here

Photo by Elizabeth Falconer on Unsplash

Course: Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. and Building a Unified Society (Spring 2023)
Faculty Mentor: Nekicia Luckett

The wealth of information and thoughtful discussions in the Anti-Black Racism course definitely shifted my understanding about issues of racism in America and made me reconsider my own personal interactions with Black people. I think that reaching my goals is a process and I’m not nearly done. I feel like I want to start the course over again and reread and review the materials. The Bahá’í quotes were obviously lovingly selected and lent a balancing aspect to every lesson. They were challenging and optimistic.  

What struck me most were my misconceptions about the success of the Civil Rights Movement and the pernicious and intentional actions taken (some before and some afterward) to nullify its progress. The effect of “whitewashed” history in America is more obvious to me now. 

I also feel better equipped with statistics and more confident in discussing racism. The red and white chart (pictured below) illustrating the rise in the prison population shown in one of the videos is a case in point. I took a photo of the chart because I found it so unsettling and illustrative of the reslaving of Black Americans. The chart has already proven to be an effective conversation starter. 

Screenshot from August 2020 WI panel discussion:
‘Supplanting the Prison Industrial Complex’ with Derik Smith

Since completing the course, I feel more empathetic toward Black people and their challenges. I also admire the tenacity with which they (particularly Black women) continue to try to protect their children from adversity. Two summers ago, I visited the site of George Floyd’s death. Grief radiated from the intersection. The more I learned in this unit, the better I could understand how fearful it must be to live in a neighborhood in which such irreverence for Black men exists, as well as the ways in which persistent and intentional racism created this situation.  

Another Bahá’í and I were intending to offer a class addressing racism through our local community college. After completing the course, we have reconsidered this goal. Both of us have taken this Anti-Black Racism course, and we are instead planning to meet regularly over the summer. We also plan to make connections with the Chaplain at the State Penitentiary to see about offering regular gatherings, starting in the fall, for the Black men incarcerated here. My cohort has worked in prisons before, facilitating plays in prison settings. In addition, I am planning to coordinate with others, including the prison librarians, to offer a more accurate array of history books and fiction written about and by Black people. As we proceed, we intend to continue consulting with our Local Spiritual Assembly and Cluster about using the resources offered through this course.



Kathy McConnell (Walla Walla, Washington)

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