May 2021: GROW Newsletter
Educational opportunities to promote anti-racism literacy brought to you by the G.R.O.W. Team (Gather, Reflect, & Offer Wisdom),
a subcommittee of the Anti-Racism & Equity Task Force

 This month we are featuring:
·        A podcast recommendation from Amy Christian
·        A movie recommendation from Susan Henning
·        A book recommendation from Brian Smith

Mark your calendar for the multi-generational Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 19, 2021. Details to come.
Podcast: Nice White Parents, by Chana Joffe-Walt
After the first time I heard of the podcast Nice White Parents in August of 2020, I heard about it at least four more times within that same week. My friends were texting and emailing about it. It was trending on my Facebook page. It was advertised by another podcast I listen to. “Have you heard about Nice White Parents , Amy?” “Amy, you’ve got to listen to Nice White Parents !” You see, the circles I run in are predominantly filled with predominantly nice white parents, and I suppose I, too, am a “nice white parent.” What does that phrase mean? In this context, a nice white parent is a well-intentioned parent who wants public schools to be an equitable place for all students no matter their race AND who wants the best education possible for her own (white) kids.
What Chana Joffe-Walt reveals throughout the Nice White Parents podcast series is how those two desires have been in conflict with each for decades across American public schools. She does so by reporting on the fraught history of a middle school in Brooklyn, all the while asking questions that extend far beyond Brooklyn (and certainly into Libertyville, IL). This five-part series is for anyone who wonders why American public schools are just as segregated today as they were in the late 1960s. It is for anyone who wonders how race impacted their own schooling or how it impacts their children’s schooling. It is for anyone who wonders why white parents have the most power in most school systems and how that impacts education. And it is for anyone who wonders what systemic change could look like and how it could be possible. I recommend you listen to it, and --more importantly -- I recommend you talk about it with those in your circles.
Reviewed by Amy F. Christian, Member of Grow
Movie: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rose Byrne and Oprah Winfrey star in this movie based on the book of the same name. The title is a reference to the cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks, a black woman, in the 1950s without her knowledge or permission, and how those cells, known as HeLa, are still living today and have been (and continue to be) the basis for many major medical breakthroughs and treatments we all benefit from, such as the polio vaccine and advances in invitro fertilization and gene mapping. Although Henrietta has been gone for over 60 years, her cells still live on and benefit the medical industry even now.

Author Rebecca Skloot (Byrne) is a biologist and writer who tracks down the Lacks family, in particular Henrietta’s grown daughter Deborah (Winfrey), to find out the story of Henrietta. We learn about the poverty, lack of health care, and inequities the Lacks children suffered from, although their mother’s cells enriched many. This compelling story, told with humanity and empathy, brings home the fact that many Black people are not treated with the dignity and equity with which they deserve as human beings.

The movie is a great place to start learning about HeLa cells, the biomedical industry and inequities suffered by people of color, but if you have time, read the book as well for a deeper look into Henrietta’s past, the lives of the children she left behind, and for a full picture of how the medical industry has benefited from her immortal cells.
Reviewed by Susan Henning, Member of GROW  
Book Review: America’s Original Sin – Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, by Jim Wallis

This book is a must read for all Christians trying to find a thoroughly biblical understanding and grounding in their quest to address “America’s original sin” of racism. Written by one of American’s leading Christian writers. Rev. Wallis was educated at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield and became founder and president of Sojourners, a Christian group dedicated to the biblical ideal of social justice. In this book Rev. Wallis states that it is “time we right this unacceptable wrong” where the “wrong” is racism and the “we” is White Christians. The book carefully and skillfully weaves contemporary events into a biblical account of reconciliation and justice. He traces the history of the White church and its involvement in systemic racism and oppression. The book concludes with strategies that White Christians and White churches can use to “cross the bridge” and address this “original sin.”

While the book was written in 2016, just after the Ferguson, MO riots following the Michael Brown killing and the Baltimore riots following the Freddie Gray killing, the message to White churches is chillingly similar to the situations we encountered last year after the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor – and many more. It is sad how little we have learned since 2016 as Christians continue confront systemic racism. The chapters explore topics like “Dying to Whiteness,” which asks us carefully explore our white privilege, and “Segregated Church or a Beloved Community” which develops a new model for churches striving to be anti-racist and non-segregated. Perhaps the most exciting chapter is Rev. Wallis’s call for White churches to repentance. This is almost a stand-alone chapter that looks carefully at the Old and New Testament’s passages on what it means to truly repent. Says Wallis, “Repentance is not just expressing sorrow or admitting guilt; it is about turning completely around and going in a whole new direction.” In the chapter “Welcoming the Stranger,” Wallis calls on us as biblical Christians to step outside our comfort zones and open our churches to diversity and inclusion.

As we at First Presbyterian Church strive to understand our role in the changing and developing world of anti-racism and what the Bible says about our role, Wallis’ book is a challenging book to add to our repertoire.
Reviewed by Brian Smith, Member of GROW