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 Two

Black History Month | Week Two

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. 

֎ Mary McLeod Bethune ֎ Amanda Gorman ֎ Kimberly Jones
֎ Madam C.J. Walker ֎ Mary Ellen Pleasant


 


Carl Van Vechten, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mary McLeod Bethune
Educator, Woman Rights Activist, Civil Rights Activist
1875-1955

Accomplishments: 

Quote:

“If we have the courage and tenacity of our forebears, who stood firmly like a rock against the lash of slavery, we shall find a way to do for our day what they did for theirs.”

Superpower: The energy of 1,000 men

Biography:
Mary McLeod Bethune was the daughter of parents who had been enslaved. She came from a large family. She was the 15th of 17 children born to Sam and Patsy McLeod. They all lived in a small cabin on a rice and cotton farm in Mayesville, South Carolina. Sam McLeod was a cotton farmer and by age five Mary was working in the fields alongside her father. Her mother worked for her former owner and would often take Mary with her to deliver the clothes Patsy had washed for several white families in the area. On one visit, Mary was playing with a white girl in the girl’s nursery. Mary picked up a book and the little girl ordered her to put it down because Mary didn’t know how to read. This interaction inspired Mary to not only learn how to read but to make sure more Black people could read and write.

Mary was the only child in her family to attend school. Every day Mary would walk five miles to school. Each night she would teach the rest of the family what she learned that day. Her calling to be an educator was loud and started early.

She received a scholarship to attend Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College), a school for girls in Concord, North Carolina. After graduating from the seminary in 1893, she went to the Dwight Moody's Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (also known as Moody Bible Institute) in Chicago. She had hope of becoming an African missionary. Bethune completed her studies there two years later but was told there was no room for Black missionaries. Returning to the South, she began her career as a teacher believing education was the key to Black advancement.

After teaching for a decade, she started a school for African American girls in Daytona Beach, Florida. It later merged with a private institute for African American boys and was known as the Bethune-Cookman School. She was the president of Bethune-Cookman School for almost 20 years.

Mary McLeod Bethune also became very active in civic organization for women and became nationally known. After working on the presidential campaign for Franklin D. Roosevelt, he invited her as a member of his “Black Cabinet.” She advised him on issues with the Black community and help share his messages with Blacks. Roosevelt would make her his director of The Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. Her relationship with the President and First Lady evolved and she was considered a close friend and advisor to them both.

She also worked on child welfare with President Coolidge and with President Hoover; she began serving on the Commission on Home Building and Home Ownership in 1931. Learn more about Mary McLeod Bethune.

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Amanda Gorman
Poet, Author, Activist
1998-Present

Accomplishments:

Quote: 

“There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” - The Hill We Climb

Superpower: The ability to see and speak about the invisible

Biography:

Amanda Gorman was born in Los Angeles and raised Catholic by her single mother who was a sixth grade English teacher. It seems greatness comes in twos in the Gorman family. Amanda’s twin sister is also an activist and a filmmaker.

Amanda was born with several challenges. She has an auditory processing disorder, and a speech impediment and spent a lot of time in speech therapy to overcome those challenges. As a result, Amanda spent a lot of time reading and writing. What began as a deficit fed her greatest assets: her gift of writing and speaking. She writes well beyond her years and her cadence calls back to Dr. Martin Luther King’s rhythm when he spoke. Her class and elegance remind us of a young Maya Angelou, yet she is clearly Amanda Gorman.

Amanda attended and graduated with honors from Harvard. Her writing often focuses on oppression, racism, feminism, marginalization, and the Black experience. She is also known for her sense of fashion. She has said, "Fashion brings a distinct visual aesthetic to language. When I'm performing on stage, I'm not just thinking about my clothing, but what my Wakanda Forever t-shirt and yellow skirt is saying about my identity as a poet.”

The future is bright for this young game changer, and I can’t wait to see what she can do. Learn more about Amanda Gorman.


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Frypie, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kimberly Jones
Author, Activist, Filmmaker
1976-Present

Accomplishments:

Quote:
“They are lucky that what Black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.” 

Superpower: Passion

About:
Kimberly Jones spoke for millions during the summer of 2020. While still in lock down from the pandemic, sequestered to our homes as the video of George Floyd’s murder played on a loop, Kimberly spoke from the front lines of a protest that some were calling a riot. Her passion, pain, frustration, anger, and determination grabbed at you from the start of her video “How Can We Win.” She made so much sense. She spoke for me, my community, and this country. The video went viral. In six minutes and 46 seconds she taught me more than any history class I ever attended.

In 2020, Kimberly Jones signed a television deal with Warner Bros. Television Group, so we will be seeing more of her. I think she has the potential to be this generation’s Angela Davis. Kimberly’s role in Black history is just a foot note today, but she is the Black future. Learn more about Kimberly Jones

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Addison N. Scurlock, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Madam C.J. Walker
Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Activist

1867-1919

Accomplishments:

Quote:
“As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds, I said to myself, 'What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff?' This set me to thinking, but with all my thinking I couldn't see how a poor washerwoman was going to better my condition.”

Superpower: Entrepreneurial spirit

Biography: 
Madame Walker was the fifth child born to sharecroppers Owen and Minerva Breedlove. She was born Sarah Breedlove, the first of the Breedlove children to be born and not enslaved. Her early life was challenging. She was an orphan by seven and married by 14. She gave birth to her daughter A’Lelia at 19-years-old and a widow at age 20. Soon after, she relocated to St. Louis where she met Charles J. Walker, for whom her business was later named. They were married for a short period of time and divorced after only a few years together. She then moved to Pittsburgh where she opened a school to train her “Beauty Culturalists,” her female workforce.

Madame Walker began creating her empire when she started losing her hair due to a scalp disorder. She became obsessed with creating better hair care products for Black women. Her products were all homemade and sold directly to Black women. At the height of her business, she employed over 3,000 people, most of those women.

Giving back to the community was very important to Madame Walker. She often gave bonuses to her employees who also did work in the community. She became one of the first Black woman millionaires and an inspiration to generations to come. Learn more about Madam C.J. Walker.

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Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Ellen Pleasant
Entrepreneur, Activist, Black Freedom Fighter, Philanthropist
1815-1904

Accomplishments:

  • First self-made Black female millionaire

  • Nicknamed “The mother of Civil Rights in California”

Quote: 

“You know my cause well. My cause was the cause of freedom and equality for myself and for my people and I’d rather be a corpse than a coward.”

Superpower: Ability to listen

Biography:
Mary Ellen Pleasant began as a mystery and remained that way throughout her life. There is some discrepancy about where she was born and if she was born enslaved or not. There is not much known about her parents. As an adolescent, she went to live with a family other than her biological family. The Williams family took her in and cared for her, yet then gave her to a family in Massachusetts to be their indentured servant. She lived with the Hussey-Gardner family who were Quakers, abolitionists, and store owners. On top of being their servant, she also worked in the family store. It is here where she learned to listen. She would learn a great deal just from listening to others converse around her as if she wasn’t there. While working at the store she learned about business and how to talk with people.

Her first husband, James Smith from Boston, was an abolitionist who worked to move enslaved people from the South up to the North and into Nova Scotia. After four years of marriage James died, leaving his estate to Mary Ellen. Soon after his death, she left to travel out West to take advantage of the freedom and the gold rush. She understood she could make a living cooking and providing lodging for the miners. She used some of her inheritance from her late husband to buy a boarding house and then rented out rooms to miners. She also worked to bring more enslaved people out West. 

Mary Ellen began to invest in property and gold and silver, buying low and selling high, exchanging cash for silver or gold at the bank to sell high. She maintained a low profile and still worked as a domestic worker where she would listen to her wealthy bosses talk about investing. She would then invest according to what the men spoke about. 

Mary Ellen used her wealth to help fund the Underground Railroad. She taught investing and business to other women of color while playing matchmaker, finding wealthy businessmen for her “trainees.” She kept detailed notes of who was with who, who had children outside of their marriages, and financial and political secrets. It is thought she used this information to blackmail the wealthy men.

To help keep her fortune a secret as her empire grew, Mary Ellen partnered with a white banker and investor, Mr. James Bell. At the time, a Black woman with a large amount of property and investments would garner attention she did not want. Together, through their investments and properties, their fortune was thought to be about $30 million (the equivalent of ~$740 million in 2021). Unfortunately, when Thomas Bell died, his widow contested their partnership, and the widow convinced the court that Mary Ellen had no rights to the money. 

Mary Ellen Pleasant died poor, but through her service, financial savvy, and strategic mind, she helped many gain physical and financial freedom. Learn more about Mary Ellen Pleasant.

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U.S. Black Catholic History Links

Black Catholic History page by Seattle University

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