Bellingham Friends Meeting hosted an online community forum on Racial Justice on July 1, 2020. More than 250 people attend
After a hectic month powered by a clear sense of unity, Bellingham Friends Meeting presented an online event for our Whatcom County community, our Whatcom Racial Justice Forum. The Zoom webinar featured a diverse panel of five community members: the county executive, a community organizer for farmworkers and immigrants, a member and resident of Lummi Nation, a millennial vocalist and entrepreneur who recently moved to Bellingham from the East Coast; and a deputy chief of the Bellingham Police Department. All are people of color; three are women. There were presentations, a discussion among the group, and opportunity for the panelists to respond to written questions from attendees. The program opened with an inspirational slide show and solos, sung by Jonathan Randolph, one of the panelists and an attender at Bellingham Friends Meeting.
The panelists’ perspectives were diverse and enlightening. The county executive and deputy chief expressed willingness to consider defunding police to fund other services, but were concerned about the effect of the pandemic-caused economic contraction on local government budgets. Other panelists talked of more core values and systemic changes. There was an emphasis on building awareness and respecting and celebrating the cultures of ethnic groups that have built the foundations of the county’s economy, such as migrant farmworkers who are marginalized and exploited, and the indigenous people in whose historical lands we all live in today, often without recognition of the way the European immigrants took the lands and wealth of the tribes, and attempted to destroy their culture. Toward the end of the forum one panelist gave a moving call for a culture of peace.
Many of those in the working group felt unable to join in local in-person protests due to personal or family vulnerability in this time of COVID-19. The recent attention to police and vigilante murders of Black people, triggered by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, have brought awareness to white people of the long and ongoing struggle of people of color. The forum attendance reached 267 people, and at the end of two hours, was still at 248. Some panelists expressed strong concern that this awareness and solidarity might fade once the pandemic and media attention to demonstrations has passed. Bellingham Friends heard that, and are committed to keeping the communication going. Both panelists and attendees are asking for more presentations like this.
Bellingham Friends’ Racial Justice Working Group will continue this work. It was enlivening for all of us in the group, and hopefully for the entire Meeting. The forum has been recorded; we are waiting for closed captioning. Then a link to the recording will be available on our website: bellinghamfriends.org.
from Mary Hansen, Bellingham Friends Meeting (7/3/2020)