I. Selected Correspondence since July 2020
II. Previous Blog Posts
>> I. Selected Correspondence, July-September 21, 2020 (Scroll down to read)
1. H. Larry Ingle Email – July 10, 2020
2. Ron McDonald Email – August 7, 2020
3. Huntsville, Alabama Area Friends Meeting, Minute – August 9, 2020:
4.[Excerpt] From: Michael Galovic, Email – August 14, 2020
5. Charleston WV Friends Meeting, Minute – August 26, 2020
6. Sharon Smith Email – September 9 2020
7. Sharon Smith, Email – September 18, 2020; includes URJ letter, Aug. 2019
8. Ronald McDonald, Email – September 19, 2020
9. Catherine Peck, Email – September 21, 2020
1. On Friday, July 10, 2020 – H. Larry Ingle
Friends . . .
Sharon has circulated her URJ’s “Financial Request” that differs little from what she has been asking for now for nearly a year, a permanent claim of $10,000 dollars a year on SAYMA’s budget with none of the accountability that we have traditionally required of other committees. Acceding to that amounts to a run on our treasury that would break our budget. And her committee’s demand—why not be blunt, and truthful, and call it that?—comes from a group of people who may or may not be Friends and are certainly not members of a “worship group” that has ever had any status in SAYMA. We have a valuable history of financial probity going back decades, and we are now being asked to throw that tradition to the winds.
Hence for those participating in the July 20th meeting, it is crucial that each Friend is aware of the challenge facing SAYMA and should be prepared to see that this demand from URJ is firmly and finally repudiated. Otherwise meetings and individual Friends will see their confidence in the yearly meeting swept away, never to be captured.
I also think that Friends need to give serious and prolonged thought to where SAYMA and Friends should contribute resources and efforts to assure that, in this time of racial reconsideration and readjustment, our region moves in a direction that reflects Quaker values that we want to uphold and encourage. I am just completing Eric Foner’s fine book on Reconstruction after the Civil War, subtitled, “America’s Unfinished Revolution,” and our time strikes me as a period in which we can work to see that the failure to achieve equality then can be redeemed now.
2. Ron McDonald email – August 7, 2020:
I am writing to about a dozen active SAYMA Friends to share with you a very serious and difficult stand.
I want to stand up in the Sept. SAYMA Reps meeting and say this:
With our whole world groaning for change, we Quakers should be part of the leadership for nonviolent solutions.
Yet SAYMA is mired in an internal battle that has robbed us of leadership integrity. We are fighting a battle with Sharon Smith’s hostility towards Quaker community. Many individuals and some Meetings are seriously considering quitting SAYMA because of this conflict.
We have to stop this.
We must stop fighting Sharon Smith. However, Sharon has made it abundantly clear through hostile name-calling and verbal violence that she will not tolerate disagreement with her. It appears that the only way to get along with Sharon is to tiptoe around her, never disagreeing or challenging her behaviors.
As clerk of Uplifting Racial Justice (URJ), Sharon Smith’s hostility and negativity has moved herself into the center of this ongoing conflict. Until now we have not had a clear way to stop it.
As our yearly meeting floundered, Sharon Smith, as URJ Clerk has
— caused a mass exodus from her committee,
— resisted budgetary accountability,
— claimed authority based upon ethnicity and age,
— threatened public humiliation of anyone who does not honor her demands,
— disrupted Yearly Meeting educational programs.
Quaker communities are understandably slow to move against any person in our own community no matter their history, including Sharon, who has a list of other Quaker groups she has been asked to stay away from.
It is time for us to defund URJ.
This recommendation is meant to lift up what I think is best for our Quaker community to begin healing, but if it only comes from me, it will not help us that much.
I share this with you to ask you to unite with me in standing
— against the recommended budget as long as it includes any funding to URJ;
— against circumventing defunding URJ by making designated donations to URJ or Sharon through the SAYMA Treasury;
— against tolerating Sharon Smith’s hostile behavior.
I would like to talk with you on the phone and hear what you think. I have no intention to speak at the Reps meeting without knowing that I am not alone in taking this position.
Realistically, I know that I (we?) only have the right to stand against funding URJ, which means that we could stop the Reps Meeting from approving the budget as it is written. I think that the best we can do is to effectively stand in opposition to URJ and Sharon’s leadership. With enough of us in negative unity (asserting “No!”), though, something positive might happen.
If you are willing to talk with me, please call me (555-5555) or send me your phone number and I’ll call you.
Sincerely your Friend,
3. Huntsville Alabama Area Friends Meeting – Minute August 9, 2020:
On August 9, 2020, during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, Huntsville Area Friends Meeting (HAFM) found unity around this minute in response to requests for feedback from monthly meetings about the proposed 2021 budget.
The Huntsville Area Friends Meeting is committed to doing the necessary work of understanding historical and current racial biases within ourselves and within our communities, particularly our Quaker communities, and to work to eliminate those biases. We want people of color to be at home in SAYMA monthly and yearly meetings and for all of us to join together to discern what Spirit is leading us to do to be a peace and justice-seeking people– ”patterns,” as said George Fox, in our challenging times.
Currently, the URJ Committee operates without SAYMA representation from SAYMA monthly meetings. It is operating outside of the original SAYMA-approved parameters for the committee, but following “revised goals” that SAYMA is not in unity with. For example, funds are being spent outside of the originally designated and stated purposes of the URJ Committee, with which SAYMA was in unity. Minute 46-31 and minute 138-06 state that the URJ Committee will use funding for workshops and training and other work within SAYMA.
After much seasoning among HAFM, we do not support any funding from the SAYMA budget for the URJ Committee at this time.In addition, HAFM requests more information about the goals of the ad hoc committee on conflict transformation so that we may better season SAYMA’s request for budgetary and other support for this ad hoc committee.
HAFM also urges SAYMA to create and approve a conflict of interest policy. We want to have a conflict of interest policy that supports our Integrity Testimony, a guide for all of us as we make business decisions within our monthly and yearly meeting.
4. [Excerpt] From Michael Galovic, Email – August 14, 2020
As for reconciling my appreciation for whites facing the violent rage in POC, I turn to a reflection from former SVFM Friend Dee Edelman who wrote me this:
“…While it is important to recognize both the historical and continuing wrongs that have been and are done to People of Color, our testimony of equality requires balancing the needs all groups and individuals…I don’t believe that racial healing is promoted by whites being willing to listen to POC rage. Raging doesn’t help the person doing it (according to recent research) and it tends to leave the listener either guilty, defensive or angry. None of which is helpful. Responding to abuse with abuse is understandable, but not helpful. The desire to deeply understand the other, each being willing to share their hurt and creating the conversation where that can happen is what creates the opportunity for healing and real change.”
And as for my engaging myself in radical action, I draw attention to how the URJ approach is just a redux of an old-style dominance paradigm, albeit one where the POC are now the dominant ones. I turned to SVFM Friend, Mel Keiser for his thoughts on SAYMA URJ…
“A different model of the use of power informs the view of Quaker procedure held by Friends on the other side of the conflict. Not power over, but power with. When a sense of the meeting is arrived at there has been an exertion of power, but it is a collaborative action of Friends asserting their individual views and working together to a common solution acceptable (to one degree or another) to everyone, a sense that the meeting has been guided”. This is to be understood with the caution that whites must use in working collaboratively with POC, as I mentioned earlier in this piece. Note that we are already in the room together. Collaboration happens every time we worship together.
It pains me to see where abuse and white discomfort with race lead SAYMA Friends to abandon our call to move forward together. I do not believe that the work for whites in SAYMA is to get us on board with Sharon and URJ, as was the messaging from the Berea MM minute last winter. I cannot support a conflict transformation workgroup that includes three URJ/URJ support group members. Nor can I support an organization that offers consultation services to SAYMA where Sharon serves on their board. Much less can I support efforts at conflict transformation when Friends are being abused.
In a white allyship training lead by African-American leader, Clarissa Harris, we were told to show up like we show up at our job. At my job, I manage my emotions and work out my differences. Why should my racial healing work in SAYMA be any different? I think my transformational process is summarized well in a design axiom posted by African-American consultant Melvin Bray whose work seeks to guide communities toward the Beloved Community. Mr. Bray posted, “if you can’t have fun with a problem, you will never solve it”. The problem is my ignorance and distorted values around race. Serious as it is, this work has been for me a passionate quest with clean pain, joy, and liberation.
In closing, I sense a call to completely lay down URJ and it’s support group, on the grounds that they were formed out of careless attention to worship and that they subsist on a disregard for mutual accountability built on the foundation of the power-over paradigm. Afterwards my hope is for SAYMA Friends to make an explicit decision to seek a Spirit-led practice for moving forward together.
5. Charleston WV Friends Meeting, Minute – August 26, 2020
At a called Meeting for Business on August 26, 2020, Charleston Friends Meeting approved the following minutes.
1. Charleston’s assessment contributions to SAYMA.
The pursuit of adequate accounting by SAYMA for URJ expenditures has been and, seemingly, will remain unproductive. We recognize – especially with the looming COVID-19 induced economic recession – that our just financial obligation to SAYMA requires our contributions as well as our concern for responsible financial administration. CFM Friends are also unified in eagerness to share in effective, practical efforts to realize racial and economic justice, especially on our local level. Opening to a spiritually creative way forward, CFM will release to SAYMA one half the amount currently in escrow from 2019 and budgeted for 2020 ($2,025) and allot the remainder of that amount to appropriate local social action groups such as the WV-Kanawha County Poor Peoples Campaign. We also propose that until such time CFM finds the administration of URJ funds to be accountable and transparent, that CFM send quarterly payments alternately to SAYMA and to one or more local organizations.
2. Charleston’s response to the proposed FY 2021 Budget
In light of recent developments within SAYMA including the Finance Committee proposed budget for FY2021, Charleston Friends Meeting affirms its minute of February 2020. “We, the Charleston Friends Meeting, are united in our approval for the expansion of funding for wider Quaker organizations, specifically Friends General Conference. We do not support future disbursement of funds toward URJ at this time. This decision has come after much discernment, but we ultimately feel that, while the money they have already spent may have gone to worthwhile programs, we have not seen evidence of its use of funds toward one of its core missions, which is to undo racism in SAYMA.”
6. Sharon Smith Email, September 9 2020
From: Sharon Smith
Subject: How White People Silence Black Voices
Date: September 9, 2020 at 7:50:05 AM EDT
To: Et al . . .
“Silencing happens when, for white people, hearing the truth is too much; when the truth hangs so painfully heavy on their shoulders that they’d rather get rid of the weight, than actually face the issue head on.
But why would something as virtuous as truth be a burden for some? Because when the truth is held up, it reflects the false securities that our society rests on: the elitism, the capitalism, the racism, the ableism, the sexism, the homo/transphobia, the xenophobia, the anti-blackness. And the people who benefit from those systems have a hard time letting go of their privilege within those realms. To escape these truths, silencing has very often been the answer.”
This is exactly what is going on in SAYMA right now, leading up to the Representative’s Meeting on the 26th.
There have been all manner of tactics to silence URJ, all of whom are Friends of color. Which is the reason some SAYMA Friends in positions of authority, feel they need to weaponize Quaker process against URJ, it’s members and it’s clerk. Somewhere in their racist reptilian brains, they probably think they are defending SAYMA.
Against what, though? People of color who are all engaged in spirit led anti-racism ministries of one type or another, in the name and manner of Friends?
What are these so-called Friends really afraid of, that they have given so much time and effort to discrediting URJ and it’s members, if not the truth of their own RACISM, which is only becomes more transparent with every racist action they conspire to undertake.
As clerk of URJ, I ask you, how is SAYMA going to live up to it’s commitment to become an anti-racist faith community, that welcomes diverse peoples of color, IF these ad hominem attacks against URJ and it’s members, all of whom are Friends of color, are allowed to continue?
Furthermore, what are you going to DO about it?
Uplifting racial justice, requires that the whole truth be told, that racist Friends own their racist actions against people of color, be held accountable, show remorse, and apologize by way of changed behavior.
There is no other way.
Don’t shoot the messenger!
7. Sharon Smith, Email September 18, 2020; plus URJ statement, August 2019
From: Sharon Smith
Subject: September URJ report
Date: September 18, 2020
To: Et al…
SAYMA-URJ Vision Mission and Goals
SAYMA-URJ envisions a Yearly Meeting community where every Friend of color feels welcome. We see a SAYMA community where the divine Light within every Friend of color is affirmed, their unique history, spiritual journey and lived Truth is honored, where our messages and concerns are heard and respected with due consideration. We see a SAYMA community where Friends of color are empowered to build close spiritual Friendships, appreciation, love and support for the weighty responsibilities we carry as people of color, embodying Quaker Testimonies. Within and outside of the Religious Society of Friends.
To help SAYMA become a welcoming place for Friends of color. The committee will do this by providing safe space for Friends of color to bring issues and concerns regarding racism within their Monthly Meetings and SAYMA, to find support and advocacy. The committee will also work to raise awareness about White Supremacy aka racism within SAYMA, by compiling and disseminating educational resources.
Goals: (The following goals were originally compiled by canvasing SAYMA FOC. We asked what they felt they needed to feel safe and welcome among Friends.)
1. Help navigating Quaker culture and process–like a FOC welcome committee, a printed guide to Quaker culture for newcomers and or assigned mentors.
2. Opportunities to connect with other FOC to build a community of support, share experiences and get emotional and tactical support from other FOC.
3. Commitment from SAYMA to address/respond to the concerns of FOC in a timely manner, with sincere listening not defensiveness, avoidance, scapegoating, labeling, “management” and process violence.*
4. Work with SAYMA M&N to develop a conflict resolution/reconciliation process that does not expect victims to facilitate or take responsibility for what happened to them. SAYMA must stop blaming victims for their own oppression.
5. Hire skilled facilitators for private FOC only sessions, to help FOC understand and heal from generational racial trauma and develop personal and group empowerment.
6. Arrange dismantling racism workshops for everyone in SAYMA.
7. Only FOC can be “voting” members of SAYMA-URJ. URJ will choose it’s own committee members and clerk.
8. SAYMA/URJ encourages white Friends to play supportive roles, as non-members. (Maybe form an auxiliary group)
9. URJ will meet in real time at SAYMA in June, at September and March Representatives Meetings, and as often as needed by conference call or video conference.
10. URJ needs financial autonomy, its own bank accounts, to prevent well-meaning unconsciously racist white Friends on the Finance Committee from delaying or withhold URJ’s funds over differences of opinion as to how URJ’s funds can or should be used. URJ will have unlimited access to its own set-aside and donor restricted funds which only URJ will decide how to spend.
11. URJ will create a Racial Justice Fund with enough cash to dispense grass roots reparations,* as needed. Such as: occasional rent/mortgage money, auto repair and maintenance, travel expenses, and any other purpose Friends of color request financial assistance for. Also to cover the cost of Friends of color retreats and skilled facilitation for Friends of color. In short, any legal use for which money can be used to address issues of economic injustice which disproportionately impact People of color.
*Process Violence: Using Quaker Process to cause harm and/or block the flow of Spirit.
* Grass Roots reparations: Giving generously, according to your capacity without waiting for a corporate decision or an act of Congress.
Reformatted, not revised, and approved by SAYMA-URJ on August 20th 2019
It is true that SAYMA-URJ has had difficulty living up to its vision, mission and goals. However, it has not been due to a lack of trying to do so, as some have claimed. In fact, URJ has accomplished a great deal, considering the extreme racial hostility we have been subjected to, primarily by SAYMA Friends in leadership positions, particularly yearly meeting clerks, clerks of finance, and the clerk of Ministry and Nurture. As a committee, URJ has faced all manner of racial discrimination and obstruction tactics, such as but not limited to, Friends bearing false witness against URJ and its members as individuals, holding URJ to discriminatory standards which white Friends have never been held to, instigating divisions between Friends of color and between White Friends, withholding funds and threatening to withhold funds from URJ, without which, URJ cannot fulfill its mission and goals. In spite of all that, URJ has ALWAYS operated according to Friends’ Testimonies, followed Quaker Process, and acted in complete accord with its mission and goals.
For these and other reasons, URJ asks, how can SAYMA achieve its oft stated goals to become an anti-racist faith community that is welcoming to people of color, while it has yet to welcome URJ and its members? The answer is simple: It is not possible, as long as Friends of color who have been led to commit themselves to doing the work URJ was approved to do, are relentlessly undermined, maligned, racially profiled and criminalized simply for doing what we are called to do.
URJ’s accomplishments, in spite of constant interference from a few SAYMA Friends intent on undermining the committee’s efforts, are easy to find on the SAYMA website at sayma.org. If you want to see URJ’s financial records, they are included in the Treasurer and Finance Committee Reports, also on the website.
Therefore, for the sake of the yearly meeting’s progress toward its previously stated goals, URJ asks for the resignation of any SAYMA Friend in a leadership capacity who has abused their authority by upholding white supremacy and perpetuating racism against Friends of color. To be precise, URJ requests that Geeta McGahey and Ron Mc Donald resign as clerks of Finance and Ministry and Nurture, in favor of SAYMA Friends who are at least trying to address their implicit racial bias, own their racism, and do the necessary work to become anti-racists.
URJ Finance Requests: SAYMA-Uplifting Racial Justice (URJ) is a SAYMA approved YM committee with a specific mission: To help SAYMA become a welcoming place for Friends of color. The committee will do this by providing space for Friends of color to bring issues and concerns regarding racism within their monthly meetings and SAYMA, to find support and advocacy. The Committee will also work to raise awareness about White Supremacy aka racism within SAYMA, by compiling and disseminating educational resources.
A. URJ Requests $10,000 of set-aside funds for fiscal year for fiscal 2021.
B. In addition, URJ is requesting a line item in SAYMA’s annual budget of $10,000 each year, or unless URJ requests a different amount.
C. As per recommendations from the FGC Institutional Assessment of Systemic Racism, to create an endowment to provide funding for People of color engaged in social change, anti-racism and/or counter-colonial work, URJ is soliciting donor restricted funds from individual Friends and Monthly Meetings for its Uplifting Racial Justice Fund. The Racial Justice Fund will enable URJ to provide support for Friends of Color to participate in SAYMA and FGC sponsored events, including sponsoring their own events and projects in support of people of color who are engaged in anti-racism work and/or most impacted by systemic white supremacy and settler colonialism.
D. White supremacy is maintained by controlling the NARRATIVE, the PROCESSES and all RESOURCES. Therefore, SAYMA can only become an anti-racist faith community by giving Friends of color the freedom to control their own resources. This was the original reason for items 10 and 11 of SAYMA-URJ’s Goals. URJ has not given up on these goals and will continue to push for them. URJ goals 10 and 11 read as follows:
10. URJ needs financial autonomy, its own bank accounts, to prevent well-meaning unconsciously racist white Friends on the Finance Committee from delaying or withhold URJ’s funds over differences of opinion as to how URJ’s funds can or should be used. URJ will have unlimited access to its own set-aside and donor restricted funds which only URJ will decide how to spend
11. URJ will create a Racial Justice Fund with enough cash to dispense “grass roots reparations,”* as needed. Such as: occasional rent/mortgage money, auto repair and maintenance, travel expenses, and any other purpose Friends of color request financial assistance for. Also to cover the cost of Friends of color retreats and skilled facilitation for Friends of color. In short, any legal use for which money can be used to address issues of economic injustice which disproportionately impact People of color.
E. During the time of the Covid pandemic, we know that BIPOC are disproportionately impacted both economically and medically. Therefore, URJ also requests that Friends donate the money they might have spent to attend the Yearly Meeting, Pendle Hill retreats and/or FGC Gathering to the Uplifting Racial Justice Fund. URJ has requested this before, with little success, therefore URJ askes that the clerks and representatives assist URJ with fundraising by encouraging SAYMA Friends to donate their unused travel funds to the Uplifting Racial Justice Fund.
To which Finance responded in a previous report: “Assuming no other budget amendments, allocating $10,000 for the URJ set-aside in the current fiscal year would increase the deficit… assuming that our income to date is representative of the rest of the year and reduce the undesignated equity (?)… For FY21 and beyond, adding $10,000 to the budget each year would require either reductions in other expense categories or an increase in assessments from monthly meetings, assuming that assessment income would actually change. Getting approval takes time, it generally takes at least a year to show up in actual payments, and several meetings use a different means of determining their assessments. Another option is again doing fund-raising to individuals to get more income.”
Approved by SAYMA-URJ and submitted to SAYMA on September 18th by Sharon “Star” Smith, clerk of URJ
8. Ronald McDonald, Email – September 19, 2020
From: Ronald McDonald
To: Et al . . .
Sent: Sat, Sep 19, 2020
Subject: Preparation for SAYMA Reps
About two months ago I asked a dozen Friends to be willing to stand with me in opposition to a budget plan including funding the Uplifting Racial Justice (URJ) Committee. Thirty-one (31) Friends and four monthly meetings have come forward with parallel concerns and the willingness to be vocal in their opinion. There is a clear groundswell of opposition to Sharon Smith’s leadership.
We are all walking a fine line between openness and taking a strong stand. We must say enough is enough. By now we can reasonably predict what will happen if we do not demand a more peaceful and responsible approach to racial justice.
We also are aware that 31 people and 4 monthly meetings are but a portion of SAYMA. We do not and probably will not represent unity. What we know is there is a strong voice ready to sing out the LACK of unity to fund URJ. Hopefully, taking negative action by saying No! will open the way for a new direction. (Our clerk and the Finance Committee knows of our subgroup, so they will probably be prepared with alternative proposals.)
I think the URJ funding issue will be one of the first items of business at the Reps Meeting, so if you can only attend a portion of the meeting, be there for the morning session. Worship starts at 9 am. Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business starts at 9:30. Saturday morning, September 26. Eastern Daylight Time.
Sincerely your Friend,
P.S. – Though we are taking a stand of disunity, it’s the first step towards healing. Thank you!
9. Catherine Peck, Email – September 21, 2020
From: Catherine Peck
To: Et al
Sent: Mon, Sep 21, 2020
Subject: Re: Preparation for SAYMA Rep Meeting next Saturday the 26th…
First, I want to apologize to you, Ron Macdonald, since I did not reply to your thoughtful letter of a few weeks ago. Here in Celo we have begun a sustained effort to delve deeply into questions of our white bias, racism in the SOF, and white supremacy. I have found it necessary to get Sharon Smith “out of my head” because the effects of her involvement in SAYMA have led us to be more resistant than we otherwise would be to these concerns. As representative to SAYMA, I’ve felt it necessary to continue reading the issues raised in the online platforms that Sharon frequents. But otherwise, I’ve really tried hard to ignore her. To the extent to which that is possible, that is my recommendation to all concerned.
If I get a chance to make it, my recommendation to SAYMA will be that every meeting begin and/or continue to use its own resources to make anti-racism a priority for study, practice, and accountability. The current iteration of the URJ clearly has a different agenda that does not include working with meetings in a way that many can abide, and so we must (and should) do it on our own. I feel sure that SAYMA will not reach unity on funding the URJ at any level, and if we do not, it will free meetings and individuals to approach the all-important subject of how we can become anti-racists in a way that jives with our fundamental beliefs about how Quakers approach such issues.
With deep appreciation for your idea, Jim, I have come to think that SAYMA is not the forum for this work. Within individual meetings, we are more likely to minimize contention and treat each other with tenderness, while at the same time holding one another accountable for our complacency when it comes to meeting the spiritual needs of people of color. I believe that SAYMA should exhort all meetings to get busy and go deep, and then step away. If we do this work, when we can finally gather again, perhaps we can gather in unity around this most important issue of our time and use that strength-in-unity to make a difference out in the world. (emphasis, mine. jim)
I’m looking forward to seeing you all,
>> II. Previous Blog Posts
Post 1: A Sad Yearly Meeting Report: SAYMA Is Not Safe – Posted 3/3/2020.
Post 2: SAYMA: “Born for this”? Or Standing in the Way? – Posted 3/10/2020.
Post 3: SAYMA’s Not Safe, III: New Trouble: Threats Against Three Meetings – Posted March 11, 2020
Second Round – Blog Posts:
Post 4: July 15th 2020: SAYMA Showdown: Another Yearly Meeting Split?
Post 5: July 16th 2020: Response Re: SAYMA’s Travail; A Guest Post
Post 6: July 17th 2020: SAYMA and Smith: “Judging the Fruits” by Their Own Words
Post 7: July 20, 2020 Exclusive: The SAYMA Enemies List; and Two More Minutes
Post 8: July 21, 2020: SAYMA, Activists & Money: How Dr. King Almost Got Ten Years
Post 9: July 23, 2020: SAYMA Representative Meeting: Summary & Comment
Post 10: August 13, 2020: SAYMA: The Gravy Train Is Lurching toward a Stop