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 Three

Black History Month | Week Three

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. 

֎ Valerie Thomas ֎ Bessie Blount Griffin ֎ Lillie Mae Bradford
֎ Anna Julia Haywood Cooper ֎ Angela Davis


 


NASA, restored by Adam Cuerden, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Valerie Thomas 
Mathematician, Inventor, NASA Scientist
1943-Present

Accomplishments:

  • NASA Scientist

  • Associate Chief of Space Science Data Operations Office

  • Inventor of the Illusion Transmitter (3D/hologram technology)

  • Winner of the Goddard Space Flight Center Award of Merit

  • Winner of NASA Equal Opportunity Medal

  • Project Manager for Space Physics Analysis Network

  • Patent holder

Quote: 
“Hobbies are for wimps who don’t have the guts to follow their passion.”

Superpower: Her brain

Biography:
Valerie Thomas was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and she grew up with a love for math and physics. She decided to pursue that love in college where she majored in physics at Morgan State University. Valerie was only one of two women who majored in physics at Morgan State. She graduated with the highest honors and immediately began her career at NASA as a data analyst. She was tasked with creating real time computer data systems that would help interpret what the satellites were seeing when they looked at Earth. She would later take this technology and lead a team of 50 people, including scientists from NASA, Johnson Space Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They were able to prove that the use of this system could accurately gauge and measure yearly wheat yields. It was an unprecedented accomplishment to bring all these agencies together to collaborate and share information in a field that is very territorial when it comes to information.

While at an exhibition in 1976, she saw an optical illusion that projected a 3D image using light and mirrors. She went home wondering how she could use this technology in her work at NASA. A year later she invented the illusion transmitter. She was able to create a way to send a 3D image of an object across a distance, creating a hologram that allows you to view the object from all angles. This technology is still used today by NASA and is now expanding into the medical field to aid with surgery. This technology is also used in televisions and video screens. She received a patent for this invention in 1980.

In the mid 1980s, Valerie Thomas was project leader of the Space Physics Analysis Network (SPAN). Her job was to create a large computer network that would connect scientists from all over the world to allow more sharing and collaboration. Valerie and SPAN continued to develop this technology which would give way to the beginning of the Internet and networking. Indirectly, we can thank Valerie Thomas for Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and all the hours we have wasted on the Internet.

Valerie Thomas is now retired but spends much of her free time encouraging and mentoring women and girls in the fields of science and math. Learn more about Valerie Thomas.

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"Portable Receptacle Support," B.V. Griffin, April 24, 1951, U.S. Pat. No. 2,550,554 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Bessie Blount Griffin
Writer, Nurse, Physical Therapist, Inventor, Handwriting Expert
1914-2009

Accomplishments:

  • Inventor of three assistive medical devices

  • First Black woman to be accepted into advanced studies at the Document Division of Scotland Yard

Quote: 
“I’m gonna live just for spite, ’cause my work is not done.”

Superpower: The inability to sit still

Biography:
Bessie Blount Griffin was born in 1914 in Hickory, Virginia. She attended school in a one room schoolhouse that was built by Blacks to educate children of freed enslaved people, enslaved children, and Native Americans. Early in life, when faced with an obstacle, Bessie found a unique solution. While attending school, Bessie, who was left-handed, would get her knuckles slapped with a ruler for using her left hand. Out of defiance and creativity she taught herself to write with the pencil in her right hand, her mouth, and in between her toes. Her resourcefulness would prove helpful later in her career.

By the time she was in sixth grade, she had learned all the schoolhouse had to teach her. She continued to learn on her own and eventually earned her high school diploma. Bessie studied to become a nurse at the Black run Community Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Newark. During her free time while working at Kennedy Memorial, she turned her attention to physical therapy. After earning her degree in physical therapy, she worked as a physical therapist and taught physiotherapy at the same hospital.

After World War II she found her calling when she began working with veterans that had lost limbs or been paralyzed during the war. Remembering back to her school days, she even taught some amputees how use their feet to type. 

She became a huge proponent for the disabled soldiers and worked tirelessly to help them become more self-reliant. While working with the soldiers, a doctor suggested, “If you really want to do something for these boys, why don’t you make something by which they can feed themselves?” So, every morning for the next five years, between 1:00-4:00 a.m. Bessie would sit in her kitchen creating a machine that would feed soldiers who weren’t able to feed themselves. Finally, after investing about $3,000 of her own money, she had created a self-feeding device that dispensed food when the patient would bite down on the feeding tube. Small pieces of food would be fed through the tube and then shut off to allow the patient to chew. She had the device patented and attempted to shop the device to the Veterans Administration (VA). Even after several surgeons praised the invention and what it could do for amputees and quadriplegics, the head of the VA said it was impractical because they had nurses and aids who could feed patients. Bessie would later sign over the patent to the French government who would use it in their military hospitals. When she was asked about not getting any money for her invention, she simply replied that she was contributing to the progress of Black people by “proving that a black woman can invent something for the benefit of humankind.” 

Bessie continued her work as a nurse, a physical therapist, and inventor, yet she desired to do more. She began studying how certain things affected handwriting such as medication, disease, stress, or a person’s physical environment. She went on to publish a paper detailing her research with handwriting. Soon police departments were calling for her expertise as a handwriting expert. She trained at the Document Division of the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory in Scotland Yard. She was the first Black woman given this opportunity. When she returned home, she was often asked to testify in court as an expert where evidentiary handwriting samples were involved.

When she wasn’t a nurse, physical therapist, inventor, or expert witness, she spent her free time building a consulting business that reviewed historical documents relating to slavery, the Civil War, and Native American treaties for their authenticity.

At the age of 94, she took up another project. She wanted to create a museum where her small one room schoolhouse once stood to honor all the students that attended the school and their amazing accomplishments. A year later, she passed away before she could complete this project. What an amazing woman, inventor, nurse, physical therapist, expert witness, and museum curator she was! Learn more about Bessie Blount Griffin. 

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Bradford Arrest Report, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lillie Mae Bradford 
Activist
1928-2017

Accomplishments:

  • A pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement

  • The Original Rosa Parks

  • Pardon recipient

Quote: 
“But that day, I said to myself ‘If you don’t defend your right today, you never will.’” 

Superpower: Courage

Biography:
Four years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, four years before Rosa refused to give up her seat, Lillie Mae had a decision to make that would impact her for the rest of her life. 

When Lillie Mae was 20 years old, she boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to go home. She had just finished a long day as a caregiver for disabled children and was going home to rest. Her bus ride required her to get a transfer so she could catch a second bus to finish her commute. She boarded the bus, gave the driver her fare and requested a transfer. Even though she paid for the transfer, she did not get it. This happened routinely to Blacks who rode the bus. It happened to her before, and she had chosen not to say anything and paid the extra fare. But this day was different. When she noticed the mistake, she approached the driver and requested she get what she paid for knowing the act of her simply questioning a white man could have gotten her killed. When he refused to give her a transfer or a refund, he ordered her to sit down several times. Finally, she sat down right behind the driver, in the section for whites only.

The driver pulled the bus over to make a call and then continued his route. A few moments later, the police stopped the bus, pulled Lillie Mae off the bus, arrested her, and charged her with disorderly conduct. She later would be ordered to pay a small fine to resolve the case, at least she thought.

Over the next several years, she applied for jobs and was denied over and over. Finally, she recalled the small box on each application, the box that asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. She answered honestly every time and would never get hired. Her quiet act of civil disobedience costed her several jobs and stayed on her record for over 50 years.

Fifty-five years after she sat in the “wrong seat,” the Rosa Parks Act was passed allowing civil rights activists to request a pardon for prior arrests. Although she was now 78 years old and wouldn’t be applying to too many jobs at her age, she requested a pardon because, “I want to have it removed, frame it, and put it on the wall. It will show I was arrested fighting for my rights.” Learn more about Lillie Mae Bradford.

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C. M. Bell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper
Educator, Author, Speaker, Activist
1858 –1964

Accomplishments:

  • Received a PhD from the University of Paris

  • President of Frelinghuysen University

  • Adoptive mother of five

  • “Mother of Black Feminism”

Quote: 
“Let our girls feel that we expect something more of them than that they merely look pretty and appear well in society.”

Superpower: The ability to succeed in hostile environments

Biography:
Anna Julia Hayward Cooper and her mother Hanna Hayward were enslaved women owned by George Hayward in North Carolina. Hanna was taken advantage of by either George Hayward or his brother, Dr. Fabius Hayward – or possibly both – and as a result become pregnant with Anna.

At nine years old, Anna began her education. She was the recipient of a scholarship to St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh. The institute was founded to help train and graduate teachers who would go on to help educate former enslaved families. While at St. Augustine’s she studied math, science, Latin, French, Greek, and literature. This was part of the “Ladies Course,” a track for women that also discouraged them from pursuing higher education. There she successfully argued for the right to take a course reserved only for men. She met and married her husband, George Cooper, at St. Augustine’s. Sadly, George died two years after they married.

Upon graduation, Anna remained at St. Augustine’s as an instructor but soon left to pursue her studies at Oberlin College in Ohio and continued taking courses reserved for men. She earned her bachelor’s degree in two years and went on to get a master’s degree in mathematics. She, along with fellow classmate Mary Church Terrell, were the first two Black woman to receive a master’s degree. Two years after graduation she wrote and published her essay, “Higher Education of Women." In her essay, she argued the importance of access to education for Black women. Almost ten years later, W.E.B. Du Bois, wrote a similar essay, “Of the Training of Black Men.” In a field designed and dominated by men, Anna not only competed with but out-performed the men in her field. 

Anna become a high school teacher, principal, and author on the side. She wrote a critically acclaimed book, A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South. In her book of essays, she spoke about race, racism, gender, and the socioeconomics of Black families. She also wrote about the duty of successful Black women to assist those after them.

At 56, she began to work toward her doctorate degree at Columbia but was forced to postpone her studies a year later when she adopted her five orphaned nieces and nephews. She returned to pursue her doctorate at the University of Paris, but unfortunately, they did not accept the thesis she started at Columbia. Finally, at age 65 she become the fourth Black woman in America to earn a PhD.

After retiring as a high school teacher and principal, she became the President of Frelinghuysen University where stayed for another 30 years before retiring again. She lived to be 105 and remained an active writer and speaker. Learn more about Anna Julia Haywood Cooper. 

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Philippe Halsman, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Angela Davis
Activist, Politician, Professor, Author
1944-Present

Accomplishments:

Quote: 
“We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.”

Superpower: The ability to speak up for those who can’t

Biography:
Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in the Black middleclass neighborhood known as “Dynamite Hill.” It was coined this nickname in the 1950s when several homes were bombed to scare Blacks from buying homes in this area. Angela’s mother, Sallye Belle Davis was a leader in the Southern Negro Youth Congress, an organization that had roots in Communism. Her senior year in high school she accepted a scholarship and attended Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York. While at Elisabeth Irwin, Angela was recruited by the Communist group, Advance.

Upon graduating from high school, Angela was awarded a scholarship from Brandeis University in Massachusetts. The summer after her freshman year, she attended the World Festival of Youth and Students in Finland, a communist-sponsored festival. When she returned to the United States, she was approached by the FBI and questioned about her presence at the festival. This would be the beginning of a long relationship between Angela and the FBI.

She studied abroad in France her junior year, and it was here where she heard about the bombing of a church in her hometown Birmingham, Alabama. Angela knew the families of the four girls killed in the bombing. Angela graduated magna cum laude, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and left to pursue her master’s degree at the University of Frankfurt. After studying abroad for two years, she returned to finish her master's degree at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to complete her Doctor of Philosophy in East Berlin at the Humboldt University.

She began her professional career when she accepted the position of assistant professor at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She was also recruited by Princeton and Swarthmore in Pennsylvania but chose UCLA because of its urban location. Soon after her arrival she joined the Black Panther Party. Her affiliation with the Communist Party and the Black Panthers concerned those in leadership and they began targeting her. The then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, urged UCLA to take a hard line against communism and as a result later that same year, she was fired. A judge would later rule they could not fire Angela Davis simply because of her connection to the Communist Party. She was reinstated only to be fired at the end of the next school year for using “inflammatory language,” in several speeches.

A few months after she was fired, an armed 17-year-old walked into a court room in California, gave weapons to the defendants on trial, and took the prosecutor, judge, and three jurors as hostages. The 17-year-old was the brother of one of the defendants in the Soledad Brother’s case who was in jail charged with the murder of a prison guard. It is assumed the brother was trying to use this takeover as leverage to free his brother. During the escape attempt, shots were exchanged, and the three defendants and judge were killed. The prosecutor and a juror were injured as well. The guns used in the failed takeover attempt were owned by Angela Davis. The weapon used to kill the judge was said to have been purchased by her a few days before the murder. The police also said she had connections with those behind the escape attempt through the Black Panther party. Angela Davis was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder of the judge. For several months, she refused to turn herself in and as a result was added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted fugitives list. She was eventually found and arrested. 

Several groups across the country began organizing and working to gain her release as soon as they heard of her arrest. A month after she was arrested and charged, over 200 communities in the United States and 67 in other countries were fighting for her release. Many public figures joined in the fight including musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono who wrote the song “Angela” to bring attention to her story. The Rolling Stones also penned a song after Angela, called “Sweet Black Angel.” When the trial ended, Angela Davis was acquitted by an all-white jury. They found no evidence she played a role in the planning of the takeover.

Angela Davis continued to teach and speak all over the world. She clearly expressed her opposition to racism, sexism, the prison-industrial complex, and the Vietnam war. She lent her support to many social justice movements, including fighting for the rights of LBGTQIA+ community. Learn more about Angela Davis.

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Avatar  Joan Baustian last yearReply

Adrian Dominicans have had a supportive role in Angela's long struggle for freedom. When she was charged with a crime, there was a national move to free her. (Abut 1970). A number of AD ;s from Chicago joined a bus load to Harrisburg for a weekend ralley supporting Angela. It was Good Friday For many, it was a moment that began involvement in the Movemen
In 1973, Angela Davis was the national organizer of the founding conference of The Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression . It was held in Chicago and I was hired to be the Chicago organizer. Almost 1,000 people attended. They represented most of the national Movement organizations. Angela became the president of the news Alliance.



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People of African Descent on the Path to Sainthood

Printable bookmark of African Americans on their Way to Sainthood (PDF)

U.S. Black Catholic History Links

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