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Community gathers for racial reconciliation

CHANGE TAKES WORK:A group of community members discuss overcoming issues of race at a racial reconciliation workshop inGethsemane Episcopal Church.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

A racial reconciliation workshop was held at Gethsemane Episcopal Church on Saturday.

The workshop, titled Uprooting Racial Injustice: A Racial Reconciliation Workshop, sought to deal directly with issues of racism. During the workshop, community members were split into groups of six and sat at tables to discuss race issues in an intimate setting. There were also speakers and lamentations that occurred between table discussions.

According to the church's website, "The work of racial reconciliation has already been central to the mission of Gethsemane and our fellowship in the Cross of Nails. We look forward to deepening our self-examination around issues of race, leading to action."

The workshop spent time discussing events that occurred in Grant County, including the lynching of two Black men in 1930 and the recent resignation of a school board president. The workshop sought to understand how racism plays into one's life and one's community.

"(Workshops like this) are extremely important," said Torri Williams, community organizer and featured speaker at the event. "It sets the tone for how we as a community work together on certain things, especially when it comes to racial justice."

"The goal of the workshop is to create a conversation concerning historical wounds, trauma and things associated with race," she added. "Particularly (in) Marion's (community) because of the lynching that occurred here."

Williams, who has been researching her family history for the past eight years, has traced her lineage back to her second great-grandfather who fought on the Union side of the Civil War. Beyond the Civil War, she was not able to trace her family history because blacks were listed under farm equipment and not as human beings, she said.

"I hope that (this workshop) helps to inform people on the realities of racism," said Andrew Morrell, spokesperson for the Marion chapter of the NAACP. "Racism exists in every institution of society in America. It's normal to us, like the air we breath."

One can deepen their self-examination around issues of race through cross-cultural relationships, Morrell said.

"If (the people you surround yourself with are) a homogenous group of people, why is it so homogenous? Why have our lives been separated in this way?" he added. "Listen to the stories of people of color on how they experience racism in their workplace, in church, in public, in Christian organizations and trust what they're saying."

Discussing matters of race so intimately can create an uncomfortable feeling for those who may not be used to discussing race in their everyday lives.

Williams told the groups if they feel uncomfortable, it is a normal part of the reconciliation process.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church of America has asked Episcopal churches across the country to find ways to fight racism issues.

"We have a commitment to community reconciliation, and over the last four years, we have taken up various topics of concern in the community, and we are dealing with the problem of race," said Bill Munn, member of Gethsemane Episcopal Church.

"What we're trying to do is get members of the African-American and white community together to discuss these things and seek out some mutual understanding and hopefully spur some concrete suggestions for addressing these issues," he said.