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In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters began by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.
From January 2021 through June of 2023, our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters collaborated on a project to provide information on prominent Black and Indigenous Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.
In May of 2022, Kevin D. Hofmann was named the founding Director of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion for the Congregation. With the goal of normalizing conversations about race and culture and discussing what it means to feel included and excluded, Kevin began contributing to this blog in June of 2022. He shares his unique experience of growing up Black in a white family in Detroit and educates on topics of equity and inclusion.
by Kevin Hofmann
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion
In honor of pride month, I wanted to lift up women in the LGBTQ+ community and highlight their activitism. Three activists and trail-blazers you should know about are Stormé DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera. It is time they get their due for the contributions they have made to this country and the world. My personal favorite is Stormé because of her fierce determination.
Stormé DeLarverie was an influential figure in the LGBTQ+ community and is often recognized as one of the catalysts of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. As a biracial lesbian and a performer, Stormé used her voice and presence to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during a time when it was fraught with discrimination and violence. She was an entertainer and a bouncer at the Stonewall Inn, where she played a pivotal role in resisting a police raid that ignited the historic Uprising; rumor has it that Stormé was the first one who fought back against the brutal police violence and encouraged others to follow her example. Stormé's activism extended beyond that event as she dedicated her life to fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, particularly advocating for the rights and visibility of queer people of color. Her tireless efforts and fierce determination paved the way for progress and helped to shape the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, leaving an indelible impact on the community she loved. Stormé's legacy inspires and reminds us of the importance of intersectional activism and the ongoing fight for equality.
Marsha P. Johnson is an iconic figure in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality. She grew up as Malcolm Michaels Jr. in New Jersey. Despite facing societal challenges and struggling with her gender identity, Marsha embraced her true self and relocated to New York City's Greenwich Village in the late 1960s. It was in this vibrant and burgeoning LGBTQ+ community that Marsha's indomitable spirit flourished.
Marsha played a pivotal role in the historic Stonewall Uprising of 1969. Her passionate activism and unwavering dedication to justice made her one of the prominent figures at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, fighting against discrimination and police brutality. She fearlessly challenged societal norms, speaking out against the exclusion and marginalization faced by transgender individuals, especially within the broader gay rights movement.
Marsha faced many challenges in her personal life, including her experiences with homelessness, mental health issues, and navigating a world that often rejected her. Despite these obstacles, Marsha's resilience and determination remained unwavering, inspiring countless individuals to embrace their identities and fight for equality.
Alongside her close friend and fellow activist Sylvia Rivera, Marsha co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organization, providing support and shelter to homeless transgender youth.
Sylvia Rivera was a fearless and passionate LGBTQ+ activist whose efforts made significant contributions to the fight for equality and justice. As a transgender woman of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent, Sylvia experienced firsthand the intersecting oppressions faced by marginalized communities. She played an important role in the aftermath of the Stonewall Uprising, speaking against police brutality and advocating for the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Sylvia co-founded the STAR with Marsha P. Johnson. Throughout her life, she advocated for the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, highlighting their struggles within the broader LGBTQ+ movement. Sylvia's dedication and activism continue to inspire generations of activists, reminding us of the importance of inclusivity and fighting for the rights of all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The new family was moving in and the neighborhood was buzzing. They were moving into the house on the corner of Outer Drive and Byrne in our Northwest Detroit neighborhood. Most of the neighbors were white and Catholic. To this point, I was the anomaly, I was a Black kid living with white Lutheran parents. The new family would change that. They were Black and Muslim, and we were told they were scary. I remember the rumors moving through the neighborhood like a cool breeze whispering, “Black Muslims hate white people you know.” Several adults warned us to stay away from them.
The warning to stay away made the family seem more appealing. My best friend and I jumped on our bikes and slowly pedaled past their house as they unloaded furniture and knick-knacks. Their furniture looked a lot like ours, just a better quality. The children dressed the same as kids our age. I was expecting them to look different, but my eyes saw no difference. We passed by, coasting on our bikes, and we noticed there were several boys in the family and one small girl. They smiled at us. It wasn’t the sinister smile I was expecting. It was the “can you come play with us,” kind of smile. I was encouraged because I didn’t want to be the only one in the neighborhood with more melanin than most. But I was cautious because of the warnings, and I was cautious because I wasn’t sure how they would see me, a Black kid living with a white family. I wondered if their hate for white would extend to me.
A few days later, Omar and Hassan came walking around the corner as we played baseball in the street. We all tensed up as they approached. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but the assumption was they would be mean, angry, and hard to talk to. Hassan was the oldest, tall, skinny, friendly, and calm. He spoke first and introduced himself to our group and we didn’t know how to respond. He wasn’t anything like we were told he would be. Omar spoke softly and had a bigger personality and still humble and kind. They were just kids like us. I wanted to pull off their Detroit Tigers caps to unveil their horns because I was convinced genetically Muslims had to be different. There was nothing there.
Finally, one of the older kids in our group asked if they wanted to play baseball with us. They said they had never played baseball before, but they were willing to learn. We were shocked that children our age had never played baseball, and we were excited to teach them. Hassan was on my team and Omar was on the other team and it was obvious by the way Hassan stood at home plate with a bat that this was new to him. The group was patient, and he was coachable and soon he caught on.
While sitting on the porch waiting to bat, Hassan sat next to me and asked me all about myself. I told him I liked to collect comic books and said he did too. I told him I liked to build with my Erector set and he too liked to build things. Hassan turned out to be a nerd like me and I was so confused. I kept waiting for the scary Muslim to appear and scream, “All whites are the devil,” and he never did.
A few days later Hassan returned and walked straight up to me and said, “I have something to show you.” He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled up a small figurine that he made. He had saved several green bread-ties and twisted them together to create The Hulk, one of my favorite comic book characters. He wanted me to have it. Someone who hates white people can’t be this creative.
Hassan’s parents were strict, so I didn’t see him a lot. They spent a lot of time doing chores and working around the house. When Hassan would come around, he always had a new comic book character made out of bread ties. His Spiderman made from red and blue ties was my favorite.
Hassan had two younger brothers, Kareem and Abdul who were about 7 and 8 years old. They were just learning to ride bikes so they would often ride together down our street. On one of their first trips, Kareem started teasing us as he rode by calling us, “do do heads,” and my friend and I gave chase as we played along. Kareem and Abdul sped away on their bikes laughing. Their laugh was a deep, genuine, belly laugh that was simply pure joy. A sound that could drown out the loudest city sounds. From that day on Kareem and Adul would ride down our street looking for us, hoping we would chase them. We always did with no intention of ever catching them. We did it just to hear them laugh and scream. People who hate white people don’t laugh like that.
The family never lived up to the stereotype of what we thought a Muslim family should be. They were respectful, kind, gracious, and polite. They were much more kind than most of the kids in the neighborhood. What I realized was that they weren’t like that despite being Muslim. They were like that because they were Muslim and brought up that way.
One of my heroes is the bumbling genius Ted Lasso from the TV series of the same name. He has a great quote, “Be Curious, not judgmental.” I think we lean more on judgmental as we grow up and become adults. But I have to tell you: curiosity helps make better friends.
May is National Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and honor the rich and diverse history and cultures, as well as the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to the United States. This month-long observance honors the struggles and triumphs of the generations of AAPI individuals who have helped shape our country.
The AAPI community is incredibly diverse, including people from more than 50 different countries and ethnicities. This diversity is reflected in the vast array of cultural traditions, languages, religions, and customs that make up the AAPI experience.
One of the most significant contributions of AAPI individuals is their contributions to the economy, science, technology, and arts. AAPI people have played a critical role in shaping American society and have contributed to a variety of fields, from politics and business to entertainment and the arts.
Asian Americans have been instrumental in advancing the field of technology, particularly in Silicon Valley. From Steve Chen, Co-founder of YouTube, to Jerry Yang, Co-founder of Yahoo!, Asian Americans have played a vital role in the development of the Internet and the tech industry.
The AAPI community has also made significant contributions to the entertainment industry, from actors and musicians to filmmakers and directors. Stars like Mindy Kaling, Constance Wu, and Daniel Dae Kim have made significant contributions to Hollywood, paving the way for other AAPI actors and filmmakers.
The AAPI community has faced significant challenges, from discrimination and xenophobia to political marginalization. These challenges have only made the AAPI community more resilient and determined to make a difference in the world.
One of the most notable examples of AAPI resilience is that of Japanese Americans during World War II. Despite being unjustly interned in camps, Japanese Americans fought bravely in the 442nd Infantry Regiment, becoming the most decorated unit in American history.
We, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Partners in Mission, are honored and so fortunate to have AAPI people as members of our community. As the recent spike in violence against this AAPI people continues, we stand with all members of the AAPI community. You all are a valuable voice and hail from diverse cultures that help to make us a better community, country, and world.
Photo above courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary
According to an online article from St. Louis University, Sister Marie Antona Ebo cringed as she watched television coverage of Alabama state troopers and police beating voting-rights demonstrators in Selma in March of 1965. When Sister Antona’s superior asked her if she wanted to join an interfaith group traveling to Selma for a second march, Sister Antona said it was time for her to "put up or shut up," so she went.
She was the only African-American woman religious in the group of 48 priests, rabbis, Protestant clergy, and six Catholic nuns. When her group gathered at a church in Selma, Sister Antona was thrust to the front of the march and in front of a bank of microphones.
She spoke words that were heard worldwide: "I am here because I am a Negro, a nun, a Catholic and because I want to bear witness." Those words marked the beginning of Sister Antona’s career as a civil rights advocate.
Her presence, along with that of other sisters, was deeply encouraging to the marchers. Andrew Young, a civil-rights leader who would one day be famous in public service, told the marchers upon the sisters' arrival at the staging spot of Brown A.M.E. Chapel, in Selma, "Ladies and gentlemen, one of the great moral forces of the world has just walked in the door."
One highlight of the event for her was at Brown Chapel when a young black girl ran up and embraced her. "She said she knew sisters, but never had seen one like herself." That was blessing enough for Sister Antona: "There are times when you know God is in charge."
Sister Antona helped found and served as President of the National Black Sisters Conference and was featured in the 2007 PBS documentary “Sisters of Selma.”
In a 2011 interview with Catholic News Service about the new memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C., she said she hoped the 30-foot likeness of the civil rights leader would prompt soul-searching.
"If we have to keep talking about keeping the dream alive, then what have we been doing for it still to be a dream?" she said. "Martin was our dreamer; his dream was for his time. Who are our dreamers today? You have to search kind of hard to find people with new dreams appropriate for our time."
Sister Antona was among the first representatives of the church to go to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in support of its protesting citizens following the murder of Michael Brown Jr., in 2014.
Sister Antona passed to her eternal reward on Nov. 11, 2017.
Sister Marie Antona Ebo, FSM
Painting by Nevah Nesbit, Age 14
Part of the 2020 Black Catholic Heroes Project
Images of Black Catholics painted by students employed by the
College for Creative Studies’ Detroit Neighborhood Arts Corps
(used with permission)
America Magazine, 2017, "Sister Antona Ebo’s lifelong struggle against white supremacy, inside and outside the Catholic Church," by Shannen Dee Williams.
NCR, Global Sisters Report, Nov. 2017, "Franciscan Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, civil rights leader, dies at 93," by Catholic News Service.
St. Louis University, 2017 - "Antona Ebo, F.S.M.: 1924-2017."
St. Anthony Messenger, May 2020, "Antona Ebo, FSM: Brave Sister of Selma" by John Feister.
YouTube video - News Channel 5 KSDK segment "Sisters of Selma," posted January 8, 2014.
If you were participating in a Black Lives Matter march and were "thrust in front of a bank of microphones," what would you say if asked, "Why are you here?"
A Non-Traditional Blessing
May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half-truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and to change their pain to joy.
May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.
If you have the courage to accept these blessings, then God will also bless you with:
- happiness—because you will know that you have made life better for others
- inner peace—because you will have worked to secure an outer peace for others
- laughter—because your heart will be light
- faithful friends—because they will recognize your worth as a person.
These blessings are yours—not for the asking, but for the giving—from One who wants to be your companion, our God, who lives and reigns, forever and ever.
Written in 1985 by Sister Ruth Fox, OSB - http://sacredheartmonastery.com/our-community/meet-the-sisters
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Black Catholic Project posts
Hofmann's Equity & Inclusion posts
All blog posts
Printable bookmark of African Americans on their Way to Sainthood (PDF)
Black Catholic History page by Seattle University
Timeline from the National Black Catholic Congress
Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP, discusses Black Catholics in America with Dr. Paul Lakeland for Fairfield University's "Voices of Others" video series
News report on one of the oldest Black Catholic parishes in the U.S., St. Elizabeth Catholic Church (formerly St. Monica) in Chicago, Illinois