What‘s Happening at St. Paul’s 11-12-2021

A few weeks ago, several of us involved in the Sacred Ground program attended a conference of people working for racial justice in Maine. It was a powerful opportunity to learn about the work that is going on in every corner of the state, as well as to hear from community leaders about how to do this work most effectively.

One of the most moving sessions of the conference for me was a panel discussion between Maine Representative Rachel Talbot Ross and Penobscot Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana. In their own ways, each of these women articulated the need for more “truth-telling” when it comes to our collective past and the reality that we now occupy.

When asked about the state of anti-racism work in Maine, Rep. Talbot Ross stressed that our current efforts are limited because “we haven’t figured out the courage. We haven’t taken the will to confront the truth about the establishment of our state and the establishment of the United States of America.” She calls us to learn the messy history of our country and to use that knowledge to better understand the societal conditions that exist today.

In response, Ambassador Dana recounted visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian on consecutive days. She was deeply affected by the accounts of the genocide of the Jewish people and was worried about the emotional weight of what she assumed would be a similarly frank presentation of the treatment of native people in the United States. Instead she found cultural items, art, and fry-bread in the cafeteria. But, as she says, “there was no truth there… there was absolutely nothing that told the story of being indigenous in America.” She reminds us that until we are willing to acknowledge our history, we can’t make progress against the manifestations of that history that linger to this day.

This call to be a truth-teller was resonant for me personally, but especially as the coordinator for the Sacred Ground program. The leaders of the movement for racial justice are asking us to tell the truth, and to do that we first need to learn the truth, even the parts of it that we were never taught in school. In the Sacred Ground program, participants gain knowledge about the experiences of people of various racial identities throughout the history of the United States and become aware of connections between that history and our present-day society. This is foundational knowledge to be able to work toward a more just society.

Furthermore, to be able to hear the truth and to effectively share it with others in our community, we need the ability to listen to the experiences of others, the ability to share from our own experience with both clarity and openness, and a mindset of curiosity rather than of defensiveness. Sacred Ground cultivates these skills and has the potential to foment genuine truth-telling. I feel fortunate to be a part of bringing this program to the wider community.

Andrea Lauerman
Sacred Ground Program Coordinator