Dear Addir Community,
First let us say: Black Lives Matter. Black lives are cherished. Black lives are valued. Black lives are vital in our community. The spectre of systemic racism against people of color in virtually every aspect of American society makes these statements not only necessary, but urgent and essential for justice.
For our Black Addir Fellows of past and present, please take care of yourselves. For those of you still at MIT, MIT Mental Health and Counseling Services has introduced new initiatives for students of color including a new workshop series for students on healing from racial incidents and a new group therapy circle for students of color. For those of you off campus, please let us know how we can help connect you and your places of worship with the resources you need.
For the past 14 years, MIT Addir has served as an open space where people with deeply-rooted differences in beliefs discuss important issues of life and faith, working together toward common goals of connection, understanding and self-awareness. This is the work of bridge-building that is centered in our namesake (‘addir’ is an ancient Sumerian word for ‘bridge’). One of the fundamental tenets of Addir is that we engage directly with difficult questions. Past Addir Fellows have used this space to grapple with how their sexuality squares with their faith, how translation of holy texts affects moral instruction, and how belief or lack thereof informs one’s ability to do good in the world. The only reason these conversations have been possible is because Addir has fostered a community of respect for others’ dignity. Addir strives, above all, to be a place where everyone can bring their whole, authentic selves.
If we continue to stay silent about the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans, however, this will no longer be true. We cannot build a trusting community with our Black siblings until we make an explicit stand against anti-Black racism in our academic and faith communities. Many of us are wondering what we can do at this moment in history. While there are many lanes of activism—protesting, donating to bail funds and mutual aid societies, advocating for policy changes from your local government—one thing that we will ask specifically of you is to discuss issues of anti-Black racism in your religious, spiritual and ethical communities with a loving and open heart. Educate yourself first. Read some Angela Davis, some Ibram X. Kendi, some Ta-Nehisi Coates. There are many lists of what to read, watch and listen to being circulated. We offer a very partial list below that might be a good way to get started. If you’re still unsure how to start, please come to us, your Addir family, and we can talk. It’s what we do best.
(An *asterisk denotes Black authorship)
History of Race and Religion in the United States:
Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, by Sylviane A. Diouf*
Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States, by Su’ad Abdul Khabeer*
The Soul of Judaism: Jews of African Descent in America, by Bruce D. Haynes*
Black Freethinkers: A History of African American Secularism, by Christopher Cameron*
Revisiting the Empowerment Controversy: Black Power and Unitarian Universalism, by Mark D. Morrison-Reed*
Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930, by Kelly J. Baker
Taking Down Our Harps: Black Catholics in the United States, by Cyprian Davis and Diana L. Hayes*
Theology Lived and Written for Liberation:
Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience, a collection of essays edited by Mary Shawn Copeland*
Becoming an Anti-Racist Church: Journeying toward Wholeness, by Joseph Barndt
The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James H. Cone*
Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne, by Wilda Gafney*
Jews and Blacks: A Dialogue on Race, Religion, and Culture in America, by Cornel West* and Michael Lerner
Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, by Kelly Brown Douglas*
Taming the Ox: Buddhist Stories and Reflections on Politics, Race, Culture, and Spiritual Practice, by Charles R. Johnson*
The Karma of Brown Folk, by Prashad
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin*
Knowing Christ Crucified: The Witness of African American Religious Experience, by Mary Shawn Copeland*
Yours in love and solidarity,