We value difference and yet difference can be used as a tool to divide. From the beginnings of this country’s history — and of course, in other parts of the world and many times — “divide and conquer” was a strategy of the powerful to keep others from challenging their power. Systemic racism, built on a strategy of “divide and conquer,” is a key example.
The answer won’t be to act as though differences don’t exist. Interim Clergy Leader Jone Johnson Lewis will draw some lessons from history, neurobiology, and community organizing to address how we honor and respect difference while we resist and transcend tactics of “divide and conquer” including our own tendencies to say “this injustice is more real than that one is” or even “we can’t address that injustice until we are done fixing this other injustice.”
In this time and space lives are being threatened. Violence is escalating against immigrants, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. How do we combat this without getting violent ourselves? Lujira Cooper will speak on this and also on the state of affairs in the LGBTQ community and how it affects everyone.
Lujira Cooper is a black lesbian feminist, a board member of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, and a member of SAGE’s Advisory Council. A writer, she published her novel “Theft of Trust” and is working on a sequel along with a futuristic book.
“Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
While humans certainly have a strong tendency towards selfishness and self-interest, we are also social creatures, existing in an interconnected network of other humans and the rest of the natural universe. To be concerned with others is also a natural tendency, and, in Ethical Culture, we acknowledge that acting on such concerns is part of developing our own full personhood.
Some varieties of humanism have been mostly concerned with self-development and self-culture, ignoring or even dismissing social justice. Interim Clergy Leader Jone Johnson Lewis explores some of the values and challenges in building interconnected community and acting for social justice, moving from a narrow self to a wider sense of self and others.
Derrick Cain is the Manager of Client Services of Brooklyn Bail Fund, an organization that pays bail for individuals who can’t afford it, so that they can fight their cases from a place of freedom, retaining the presumption of innocence. Every year in New York City alone, 45,000 are jailed simply because they can’t post bail. The organization also works with allies here in New York and across the country in the fight to end cash bail. This approach is a radical intervention in a system that treats people differently based on wealth, skin color and influence. It’s one way to challenge the criminalization of race and poverty, the practice of putting a price on fundamental rights, and the persistent myth that bail is a necessary element of the justice system.
We are social beings, and one of the most basic of human needs is to belong. We may have different strengths of that need from person to person and at different times of our lives, but we all need to feel we belong somewhere. We want to be part of something greater than ourselves. Seeking a sense of belonging is a very strong human motivation. The need to belong can sometimes motivate acts of cruelty to those outside the circle of belonging. How do we fulfill our own need to belong in ways that are ethical? How do we welcome others into our circle of belonging?
Our speaker, Jone Johnson Lewis, is the Interim Clergy Leader of the Society.
Music by DuPree, accompanied by Barry Kornhauser.
Please note that due to the hurricane, our guest for this event will not be able to attend, so Enhanced discussion is canceled for this month. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause.
Enhanced Discussion presents Professor Daniel O. Sayers, Historical Archaeologist Chair, Department of Anthropology, American University Washington, D.C. and author of: A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. 2014. (Second, paperback edition, 2016).
Those who could ran away. Untold numbers went into the swamp to get away from the cruelties of slavery. Once over a million acres, the Great Dismal Swamp was almost impenetrable. With this action, slaves exhibited grit, a keen resolve and an ironclad will to survive.
Here on the border of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina was a place so environmentally hostile and brutal that it was preferred to the barbarous and sadistic patterns of slavery. Pursuit of runaways never went deep into these recesses. Maybe it was assumed that the escapees would die anyway.
Like the quilombos of Brazil and the deep, upriver settlements in Guyana, the Great Dismal Swamp was a refuge from slavery’s terror. It was actively used from the earliest times until the Civil War. For the enslaved and historical truth-seekers, this is one of the stories in our history that must be told.
What does it take to have tough conversations where we know that we may have disagreements, make mistakes, be misinterpreted, risk being wounded or cause wounds, not be perfect? What agreements do we need in order to call each other to more, deeper, and courageous truth and compassion? Without tough conversations, we stay stuck and fail to grow and learn. Without brave space, tough conversations just don’t happen very often. Jone Johnson Lewis, our Interim Clergy Leader, offers some insights from communication practices, research, and experience.
Our speaker, Jone Johnson Lewis, is serving as the Interim Clergy Leader of Brooklyn Ethical. She has been an Ethical Culture Leader for 26 years and shares the Society’s interests in both social justice and personal/interpersonal transformation.
Music by DuPree, accompanied by Barry Kornhauser.
Many of us are engaged in social justice work, or political action, seeking to change the recent direction of our country. How do we maintain hope and build up our bravery for that work? And, at the same time, how do we stay true to our Ethical Culture principles that affirm the worth of every person? Can we fight for justice without fighting each other (not a rhetorical question!)?
Amanda Poppei serves as the Senior Leader at the Washington Ethical Society, a humanist congregation in Washington, DC. A graduate of Yale University and Wesley Theological Seminary, Amanda is one of the co-founders of the Humanist Clergy Collaboratory. Amanda incorporates social justice work into her leadership; she has served on the city-wide strategy team for the Washington Interfaith Network and is a member of Faith Strategies.