The Center for Reconciliation in 2015
The Center for Reconciliation was born during a difficult year for race in the United States. Smartphone cameras and social media helped expose more Americans to a daily drumbeat of racial violence, fear, and injustice, as well as to hope, activism, and acts of compassion. As our first year comes to a close, we are pleased to share with you the highlights of our accomplishments in 2015, and our plans for 2016.
This has been a busy year for us, as we established ourselves as an organization, met with a beautiful diversity of individuals from across Rhode Island, and began offering programs on racial reconciliation. We look forward to an exciting new year, as we expand our program offerings, deepen our partnerships with like-minded organizations, and plan for the years ahead.
Despite the enormous challenges of addressing race in our society, we are strengthened daily by the growing expressions of support we receive from across Rhode Island and the nation. Your prayers, your wisdom, your offers of volunteer time and partnership, as well as your financial support, have enabled our early progress and our optimism for 2016.
We take this opportunity to thank you for your support, and to ask that you continue to support us with your prayers, your advice,
, and your financial
Highlights from our first year
The Center for Reconciliation (CFR) works to confront the history and legacies of slavery and the slave trade in order to build respectful and equitable relationships across racial lines. We seek to change hea
rts and minds through collaboration focused on learning, healing, and justice. Initiated by the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, the CFR serves as a catalyst, convener, and collaborator, engaging civic, religious, and education groups in a shared exploration of race today through the lens of forgotten history. We offer programs that foster awareness, dialogue, and engagement.
In 2015, we:
- Organized as a non-profit incorporated in the state of Rhode Island
- Established a founding board of directors, including: Prof. Barrymore Bogues, Brown University Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice; the Rev. W. David Dobbins, the Episcopal Center at the University of Rhode Island; Mr. Delbert C. Glover; the Ven. Janice L. Grinnell, the Episcopal Center at the University of Rhode Island; Dr. Ferdinand Jones, Brown University (emeritus); and the Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely (chair)
- Hired a part-time executive director, James DeWolf Perry, most recently executive director of the Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery, and a program manager and curator, Elon Cook, who is also the director of the Robbins House Historic Site in Concord, Mass.
- Enlisted an artist-in-residence, Arielle Brown, a master's fellow at Brown University's Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, to research three enslaved women buried in St. John's cemetery and to create performance art for the community
- Engaged interns and volunteers to assist with event planning, logistics, and other activities
- Established partnerships with Brown University's Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and the Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery
- Collaborated with the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, the Rhode Island Historical Society, The Blessing Way, Youth in Action, and the Urban League of Rhode Island
We also offered a variety of programs and activities, on our own and in partnership with others:
- Four screenings of Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, with dialogue facilitated by our staff, at churches in Providence, Bristol, Newport, and Wickford
- Presentations to community leaders and others interested in our plans
- Events co-sponsored with the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, the Rhode Island Ministerial Alliance, and the Providence Preservation Society
There has been increasing interest among members of the public, and in the press, in our plans for a museum and for programs aimed at racial reconciliation. See, for instance, Katharine Q. Seelye, "
Rhode Island Church Taking Unusual Step to Illuminate Its Slavery Role
New York Times,
Aug. 23, 2015).
We also secured critical early funding from several sources, including a $10,000 planning grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, and have submitted several more grant applications. We have also begun to reach out to individual prospective donors, securing $20,000 in early gifts to support our programs and $40,000 in pledges over the next four years.
Looking ahead to 2016
We are a small organization, buttressed by many volunteers and partnerships, including the support of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. Consequently, we seek to leverage our impact by nurturing collaborative partnerships.
Our plans for the new year include:
- Offering our programs across Rhode Island at educational, religious, and civic institutions, to educate the public about the state's history of slavery and race, to draw links between the past and present challenges, and to inspire active dialogue, healing, action, and racial reconciliation
- Collaborating with 15 other organizations to help sponsor a dramatic reading of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," and with Trinity Church, N.Y.C. to host the Trinity Institute's web conference "Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice" (both in January)
- Drawing up plans for a museum, to be housed in the Cathedral of St. John, interpreting the history of Rhode Island's involvement in slavery and the slave trade, and challenging visitors to consider their own relationships with the legacy of that history
- Designing the museum space to serve as a small performance and exhibit venue, so we can house those aspects of our program
- Expanding our board of directors, advisory and program groups to include a wider representation of communities and groups from throughout Rhode Island
- Forging new and expanded partnerships with civic, religious, and historical institutions engaged in similar or parallel work addressing the history and legacy of race
- Securing institutional funding for our programs, partnerships, and museum, while cultivating a broad base of support among individual donors
We are eager to hear from you, to learn how we can work with you, what we can do (and do better), and how you might become further involved by volunteering your time or making a contribution to our work.