Racial reconciliation team plans ‘healing pilgrimages’

By Jessica Connor

When it comes to racism in South Carolina, it’s less a matter of frustration and tension and more a matter of deep pain and sadness—about years upon years of strife, discrimination, disrespect and far worse.

So says the Rev. Amiri Hooker, chair of the newly formed S.C. Conference Racial Reconciliation Design Team, whose group has discerned that this pain is the root of most of the racial issues facing South Carolina today, and if we can get to the heart of that pain and seek conversation and understanding, true healing can begin.

To that end, Hooker and the Racial Reconciliation Design Team have decided to organize “healing pilgrimages” to various locations in S.C. with something to do with the history of racism.

“Instead of just another meeting at another location, we want people to actually go to places (of racial significance) to say, ‘This is what happened here, this is part of our racial legacy in South Carolina and how to we begin to unravel and unmask the racial issues around that,’” Hooker said. “The long-term goal is really to create a lot of healing and encouragement spots across the conference, and therefore lead to some healing and hope for the conference.”

Formed out of the passion around racism voiced at Annual Conference in June, the Racial Reconciliation Design Team is charged with developing a project or tool to help churches better understand race issues in the church and community.

After reading “A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion,” by Trevor Hudson, the design team felt the conference could best cultivate compassion and understanding about racism if they made pilgrimages together, visiting some of these racially significant sites firsthand and dialoguing about the issues and pain.

However, Hooker cautioned that the pilgrimages are not only for predominantly African-American congregations. Every congregation—African-American, Caucasian, Korean, Latino and Native American—should participate.

“This will only work if we have the entire conference involved in these events …because everybody needs a sense of the racial issues in South Carolina: where we have been, the pain associated and the hope of moving forward,” Hooker said.

The team has been seeking site suggestions, as well as groups and other partners who will share in the dialogues. They will have an internal “test run” in late October at the site of the Orangeburg Massacre, and they are planning a full public pilgrimage event in February or March; watch the Advocate for details.

Members of the Racial Reconciliation Design Team

The Rev. Amiri Hooker, chair

Joanna Donegan

Dr. Paul Harmon

Frances Hill

The Rev. Tiffany Knowlin

The Rev. Bernie Mazyck

Doug Markham

The Rev. Genova McFadden

The Rev. Ryan Spurrier

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