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Anti-Racism Team supports national effort to work for racial equality

Sister Alma Louise Mescher teaches children in Georgia in the summer of 1965 through the Freedom Schools suported by SCOPE (Summer Community Orgazination and Political Education), founded by Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Library of Congress/LOOK Magazine)

Sister Alma Louise Mescher teaches children in Georgia in the summer of 1965 through the Freedom Schools suported by SCOPE (Summer Community Orgazination and Political Education), founded by Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Library of Congress/LOOK Magazine)

The Congregation’s voice against racist practices has a long history. Saint Mother Theodore, herself,  set the tone for works of justice. Her journey through New Orleans comes to mind. She witnessed slaves being auctioned and declared she wished she could buy them all so she could set them free.

Among the more dramatic examples is the time when sisters ministered in Alabama during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, registering new voters. And you may know about the sisters who were confronted with housing discrimination in Chicago in the 1990s.

The Congregation’s Anti-Racism Team is a direct outgrowth of that Chicago episode. For more than a decade, this team of sisters and lay persons has made itself available for teachable moments in providing workshops and training sessions, educating themselves about important issues, and speaking out when necessary.

When the team assembled for its spring meeting last week, it voted unanimously to join with other groups on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21) to ask the Obama administration to create a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice. The U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN) and the Human Rights at Home Campaign are leading the effort in consultation with communities and groups directly affected by structural racism in the United States.

Team members were united in offering their supportive voice, and they quickly encouraged one another to sign on as individuals as well. They also offered suggestions about calling senators and representatives to stimulate the elected officials’ knowledge and interest. Others were saying they were happy such an opportunity has been offered and that it has been too long in coming. After all, issues of discrimination and civil rights did not vanish from society after Rosa Parks took a seat on bus in Alabama in 1955.

The National Plan of Action for Racial Justice is intended to create a comprehensive action plan that would be adopted by the federal government and applicable to all levels of government to address persistent contemporary forms of racial discrimination and race disparities in almost every sphere of life. Hopefully, it would establish clear steps to advancing racial equality.

And that’s why it’s important to the Sisters of Providence and their Anti-Racism Team. And, that’s why, in 1868, sisters provided classes for students in Jeffersonville, Ind., where African Americans were banned from schools. The sisters conducted classes after Mass on Sundays. They also helped African Americans to be accepted at St. John Academy in Indianapolis in 1937. They also helped open St. Bridget School and St. Rita School, schools in Indianapolis in highly concentrated African American neighborhoods.

What’s important to you about racial equality? How have you helped create a more just world for people of color? Have you ever been a victim of discrimination? Do you support an effort to create a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice? Share your thoughts!

 

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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.

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