“I had learned so much, I just had to think about it all for a while.”
Lynda Blackmon Lowery
It began three years ago, when the women’s ensemble I had sung with for almost 20 years took itself apart. After the Women’s March on Washington in 2017, we had stumbled into some difficult conversations about race. Powerful words, not carefully chosen, resulted in painful injury and broken relationships. Two members of the group left. Six remained. In the months that followed, it was unclear whether we would be able to learn from our mistakes, find our way through the mess, grow in intellectual and emotional honesty and repair the damage.
For me, one of the consequences of this experience was the clear awareness that, as a white woman, I needed to learn more.
A starting place was Debbie Irving’s book, Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race (Elephant Room Press, 2014). It was recommended reading for our group, as we sought to put ourselves back together. It invited me to step into a stream of learning that was historical and political and deeply personal. To face into the stories of how systemic racism is woven into the fabric of the United States. To learn about how governmental policies frequently perpetuated the oppression of people of color. And to become more aware of and honest about how I have benefited from these inequities.
These last three years have been a deepening journey impacting the books I read, the films I watch, the podcasts I listen to, and my decision to undertake a sabbatical pilgrimage along the American Civil Rights Trail.
The six remaining women from our vocal ensemble chose to remain together – after a whole lot of work. We are not the same group. We have been changed by our experience. We talk more, and sing less — and we move forward together with both accountability and grace.