Notes from January 30, 2021 antiracism meeting

Community Meeting on Antiracism Boston Shambhala Center 1/30/2021

The group watched and discussed a brief excerpt from a recent Harvard Divinity School Panel discussing the book Black and Buddhist (a link to the full panel discussion is included in the resources from the zoom chat at the end of this document). We then divided into small groups addressing three areas of this work: Skillful Action, Study, and Contemplative/Practice. Following are the notes from each group.

Skillful Action

Maintaining momentum within this group and inspiring motivation and action among the broader community is a priority

Three main action ideas that came up

1) Speaker series ideas

○ ”Seeing Shambhala” series, with similar approach to seeing white podcast, where speakers (maybe starting with a panel led by Judith Simmer-Brown) could discuss the ways in which Shambhala Culture has excluded POC and others from marginalized groups and ways to increase welcoming and engagement from people in these groups

■ Judith Simmer Brown could expand on what she discussed in the 2.5 minute clip and we could offer a platform for her

○ Revitalize (and seek funding for) idea presented in grant proposal to have sponsored series of talks by Black teachers/speaker on topics related to Buddhism, practice, and addressing inequity

○ Some mix of these two ideas

2) Hire consultant who specializes in providing feedback to spiritual communities to provide perspective on our “blind spots”

  • ○  This assessment/feedback would be presented to board, which would then inform areas of further action to bring to the community
  • ○  Potential contact3) Engaging with other Sanghas
  • ○  There are many Shambhala communities, local Sanghas, and Buddhistorganizations already doing this work. Connecting with them could guide our

    efforts

  • ○  Consider what the Insight Meditation Center is doing – their POC practice groupis ongoing. Ask them what has worked and learn from their experience.

● Other ideas that were brought up:

  • ●  Sponsored workshop specifically for POC by BIPOC teacher to provide service to communities of color and increase visibility/awareness of Shambhala as a resource
  • ●  Focus on engaging younger people to participate/join Shambhala with the idea that there will likely be more diversity and openness to focus on diversity/equity/antiracism with more young people in the community
    • ○  How do we kickstart new membership? Increase diversity in leadership?
    • ○  30s and Under group has some regular POC attendees
  • ●  What about Shambhala is unwelcoming? What are our blindspots in terms of physicalspace, culture, interaction styles?

○ Identifying these will help with action steps

 

Study

We broke down the types of offerings the center could consider to build knowledge, expand awareness of systemic racism, and work to dismantle it.

  1. Group discussions
    Discussion groups organized around a specific book, film, or taped presentationfacilitated by center member(s)
  2. Speakers/training programs offered by the center
    Programs offered by BSC led by independent speakers or organizations withrelevant expertise
  3. Collaboration
    Collaborating with other centers to offer speakers or training programs
  4. Research/outreach
    An organized effort to find relevant presentations and programs offered byShambhala online, other Shambhala centers, other Buddhist centers and spiritual communities, or other organizations

This subgroup had only two members so we didn’t discuss how to begin to bring these ideas to fruition. We would need a small task force to move this work forward, arranging programs and presentations, researching community offerings, and seeking opportunities for collaboration.

The subgroup also discussed community engagement. Why are so few center members participating in these meetings and what can we do to engage others? The loss of in-person connections may be a factor, as well as a general sense of fatigue from the pandemic, and political and economic crises. We may want to more deeply explore the issue of community engagement and possible ways to address it in the spring, but in the meantime, we need to forge ahead with who we have.

Contemplation/practice

We identified three main areas of focus for anti-racist contemplative work:

  1. Building capacity: Strengthening our ability to sit with the discomfort of racism and the work of antiracism, as individuals and as a group.
  2. Building empathy: Deepening our emotional understanding of the experiences and feelings that come up for People of Color in our community and in the broader American/Western Buddhist world.
  3. Creating the foundation for an antiracist culture: Through building capacity to hold our own emotions around race as well as empathy to better understand and care for the experiences of POC in Buddhist communities, we aspire to build a more sensitive and welcoming, and less fragile, culture within our community.

We also identified some concrete possibilities for engaging in the inner work of antiracism:

  1. Work with Resmaa Menakem’s embodied contemplations around race, either through his book My Grandmother’s Hands or through his online course.
  2. Engage with firsthand accounts of POC in Buddhist communities (e.g. the book Black and Buddhist) and engage in an emotional/empathic exploration of the experiences as they are conveyed.

We all agreed that the most promising initial direction is to pursue working with Resmaa Menakem’s teachings and contemplations. As a concrete action step, Dylan will look into the Resmaa Menakem online course and reach out to members of our subgroup to schedule a regular meeting time.

Resources from the chat

Harvard Divinity School Panel discussing Black and Buddhist including Judith Simmer-Brown excerpt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=El58daZCm5M
interview with Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins fo Our Discontents https://www.npr.org/2020/08/04/898574852/its-more-than-racism-isabel-wilkerson-explains-ame rica-s-caste-system

Upcoming Events addressing whiteness/white supremacy in buddhism
From East Bay Meditation Center https://www.eventbrite.com/e/living-my-practice-wholeheartedly-whiteness-race-and-the-bodhisa ttva-vow-tickets-135775426957

From Naropa University

https://mailchi.mp/naropa.edu/free-online-lecture-on-surviving-white-supremacy-with-dr-jasmine- syedullah?e=d403ee2c68

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