Equity and Inclusion


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.

Equity and Inclusion Project

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Black History Month | Week One

Black History Month | Week One

By Kevin Hofmann
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion

The theme for this year's Black History Month is “Black Resistance.” I thought there would be no better way to showcase Black resistance than to highlight Black women. They are the backbone of the Black community and have played a monumental role in creating change through their resistance. Each week throughout the month of February we will learn about women who stood up, spoke out, and changed the world. 

֎ Fannie Lou Hamer ֎ Ida B. Wells-Barnett ֎ Stacey Abrams
֎ The Founders of Black Lives Matter ֎ Afeni Shakur


 

Fannie Lou Hamer
Voting Rights Activist
1917–1977

Accomplishments:

Quote: 
“I don’t want to hear you say, ‘Honey, I’m behind you.’ Well, move. I don’t want you back there because you could be 200 miles behind. I want you to say, ‘I’m with you.’ And we’ll go up this freedom road together.” 

Superpower: Resilience

Biography:
Fannie Lou Townsend was born in 1917, the last of 20 children to be born to Ella and James Lee Townsend, sharecroppers in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She began picking cotton at age six and by age 13 she was able to pick up to 300 pounds of cotton each day while fighting the effects of polio. During the winter months, when not picking cotton, she attended a one-room schoolhouse on the plantation where she worked. She excelled in reading, spelling, and reciting poetry. Unfortunately, by age 12 she had to leave school to pick cotton to help support the family.

In 1944 she married Perry Hamer and the couple continued their plantation work. In 1962, Fannie Lou was fired from the plantation when the owner discovered she tried to vote. Once the harvest was complete, her husband, Perry, was fired as well.

In 1961, she found out she had a uterine tumor. She scheduled the procedure to have the tumor removed but when the doctor went to remove the tumor, he chose to give Fannie Lou a “Mississippi Appendectomy” – the forcible removal of a Black women’s uterus without the woman’s consent to control the “spread” of Black people. Although Fannie Lou was unable to have children, she and Perry eventually became parents to two adopted girls.

In June 1963, after successfully completing a voter registration program in Charleston, South Carolina, Fannie Lou and several other Black women were arrested for sitting in a “whites only” bus station restaurant in Winona, Mississippi. At the Winona jailhouse, she and several of the women were brutally beaten, leaving Fannie Lou with lifelong injuries – a blood clot in her eye, kidney damage, and leg damage.

In 1964, Fannie Lou helped organize Freedom Summer, which brought hundreds of college students, Black and white, to help with African American voter registration in the segregated South.

Frustrated by the political process, Fannie Lou turned to economics as a strategy for greater racial equality. In 1968, she began a “pig bank” to provide free pigs for Black farmers to breed, raise, and slaughter. A year later she launched the Freedom Farm Cooperative, buying up land that Blacks could own and farm collectively. With the assistance of donors (including famed singer Harry Belafonte), she purchased 640 acres and launched a co-op store, boutique, and sewing enterprise. In 1977, Fannie Lou died of breast cancer at age 59.

Despite all that happened to her she never stayed down. Hardship, disease, racism, malpractice, and violence never stopped her from achieving what she was called to do. Learn more about Fannie Lou Hamer.

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Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Investigative Journalist, Educator, Civil Rights Leader
1862–1931

Accomplishments:

Quote: 
“I am only a mouthpiece through which to tell the story of lynching and I have told it so often that I know it by heart. I do not have to embellish; it makes its own way.”

Superpower: Courage

Biography:
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born into slavery in Holly Springs Mississippi, and at age three she was declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation. At age 14 she went to visit relatives; while away from home her parents and a sibling contracted yellow fever and died soon after. Ida was left to raise herself and her surviving siblings. She found a better paying job as a teacher and moved the family to Memphis.

It was in Memphis where she co-founded the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper where she was also an investigative reporter. Ida chose to expose the truth behind white mob violence and lynching. The white media continued to report that those getting lynched were criminals and those doing the lynching were the real victims. Ida’s articles showed the brutality of the lynching and how they were used to intimidate and control Blacks who were gaining power and prominence in society.

Ida became a trusted and needed voice in the struggle for civil rights. Soon her articles were being carried nationally by other Black newspapers and as her readership spread, she became a target. Her presses in Memphis were destroyed by an angry white mob and she and her family were forced to flee to Chicago for safety.

She continued to write and speak both nationally and internationally, pointing out the realities of racism in America and the brutality of lynching. She also became a leader for women’s rights and a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. She was present during the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) but is rarely listed as one of the founders.

In 2020, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was awarded a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for her investigative writing. Learn more about Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

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Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stacey Abrams
Politician, Lawyer, Voting Rights Activist, Author
1973–Present

Accomplishments:

  • Founder of Fair Fight Action

  • Democratic Georgia gubernatorial nominee 2018 and 2022

  • Co-founder of NOWaccount Network, a financial services firm

  • First African American woman to give a response to the Presidential State of the Union address

  • New York Times best-selling author (twice)

  • CEO of Sage Works, a legal consulting firm that has represented clients including the Atlanta Dream of the Women's National Basketball Association

Quote: 
“Our ability to participate in government, to elect our leaders and to improve our lives is contingent upon our ability to access the ballot. We know in our heart of hearts that voting is a sacred right – the fount from which all other rights flow.”

Superpower: The ability to organize
 
Biography:
Stacey Yvonne Abrams was born to Robert and Carolyn Abrams in 1973 in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Gulfport, Mississippi. In 1989, the family moved to Atlanta where both her parents pursued graduate degrees in Divinity from Emory University.

While still in high school, Stacey was hired to work on a congressional campaign where she was given the opportunity to be a speechwriter. She continued her education after college and graduated magna cum laude from Spellman University in 1995. Her post-graduate work was done at the University of Texas in Austin, and she graduated with a Master of Public Affairs degree in 1998. Stacey continued to law school and earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Yale Law School.

In 2018, Abrams founded Fair Fight Action, an organization to address voter suppression. She has been widely credited with boosting voter turnout in Georgia, including in the 2020 presidential election, when Joe Biden narrowly won the state, and in Georgia's 2020–21 regularly scheduled and special U.S. Senate elections, which gave Democrats control of the Senate. Learn more about Stacey Abrams.

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Left: Patrisse Cullors on Ashley Graham, Pretty Big Deal with Ashley Graham, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons | Center: Alicia Garza, Citizen University, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons | Right: Ayọ Tometi, Web Summit, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Founders of Black Lives Matter
Patrisse Cullors: Activist, Organizer, Civil Rights Champion (1983-Present)
Alicia Garza: Activist, Organizer, Civil Rights Champion (1981-Present)
Ayọ Tometi: Activist, Organizer, Civil Rights Champion (1984-Present)

Superpower: Their ability to create change

About:
In 2013, in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Ayọ Tometi (formerly Opal Tometi) created Black Lives Matter (BLM). There has been so much misinformation about this group, so it is important to hear directly from the founders about the inspiration behind this movement.

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

As organizers who work with everyday people, BLM members see and understand significant gaps in movement spaces and leadership. Black liberation movements in this country have created room, space, and leadership mostly for Black heterosexual, cisgender men — leaving women, queer and transgender people, and others either out of the movement or in the background to move the work forward with little or no recognition. As a network, we have always recognized the need to center the leadership of women and queer and trans people. To maximize our movement muscle, and to be intentional about not replicating harmful practices that excluded so many in past movements for liberation, we made a commitment to placing those at the margins closer to the center. (Source: https://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/)

BLM is unique is so many ways. It appears the founders looked to the successes and failures of the past civil rights groups to guide them. As stated above, they wanted to create a more inclusive group that honors women, queer, and transgender people as leaders and show all are integral in creating real change. Learn more about Black Lives Matter.

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University of Central ArkansasCC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr

Afeni Shakur
Activist, Black Panther, Mother, Litigator
1947–2016

Accomplishments:

Quote: 
“Trust me, you can't change anything without causing some degree of disruption. It's impossible, that is exactly what change is. Some people are uncomfortable with the disruption that change causes, but the disruption is necessary if anything is going to change.”

Superpower: Fierce litigator

Biography:
When Afeni Shakur, born Alice Faye Williams, was 21 years old, she heard Black Panther Bobby Seale speak. When the Black Panther Party opened an office close to her home in Harlem she joined right away. She would soon meet and marry fellow Black Panther Lumumba Shakur. She changed her name to Afeni Shakur and became a section leader of the Harlem chapter for Black Panthers.

Six months after she joined the Black Panther Party, Afeni was arrested along with 20 other members, accused of plotting to bomb several New York police stations. During the trial she represented herself and described it in her autobiography, “I was young. I was arrogant. And I was brilliant in court... because I thought this was the last time I could speak. The last time before they locked me up forever... I was writing my own obituary." Her work in the trial is credited for getting her and the 20 others acquitted. 

In total, Afeni spent two years in jail. During that time, she had the opportunity to get to know several Gay inmates who helped her to see the oppression the gay community was experiencing and how similar their fight was to the Black community’s fight. After her release, Afeni participated in the Gay Liberation Front and continued to fight for gay rights and the fight against homophobia within the Black Panthers.

On June 16, 1971, she welcomed son Lesane Parish Crooks. She would later rename him Tupac Amaru Shakur. Tupac grew up to be a gifted rapper and a critically acclaimed actor before being murdered in Las Vegas by a drive-by shooter. His murder is still unsolved. Learn more about Afeni Shakur.

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