White Awake Calls Buddhists for Racial Justice

For the Benefit of All

First Edition of White Awake’s Quarterly Newsletter

“No one here actually came from some place called “white”. You came from a real place, and have a heritage and a background …  We have allowed a paradigm that was required to move the economy in a particular way, and to privilege a particular people, to take over our understanding of who we are and to cut ourselves off from love.

This often strikes me as such an enormous opportunity for healing for white America, to allow itself to drop into this experience of what has happened … not to the people of color – it’s clear that that needs to be examined and seen – but what has happened to you?”

– Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei, BuddhaFest “Beloved Community” program, 2015
2014 brought sweeping protests onto the national scene, starting with the courage of front line communities in Ferguson, and was marked by the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. In 2015, we lost Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, and Freddie Grey, and witnessed the horror of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s brutal execution when the city of Chicago finally released the video of his shooting. With the rise of Donald Trump and violence against Muslims increasing, we are reminded that the task at hand is larger than police violence or even anti-Black racism.

White people are asking questions: Are we perpetuating racism? How can we change this? How do we break the silence in our White communities? What do we do?

At the encouragement of Black and POC leaders nation-wide, White people are beginning to articulate our own vision of transformation. White Awake is here to support White people in educating ourselves, engaging our spiritual practice, and developing this vision.

White Awake has grown from humble beginnings. It began several years ago when 15 practitioners from the Insight Community of Washington, DC (IMCW) organized their own curriculum, centered around their mindfulness practice, to educate themselves and engage in “soul-work” around race. Two years ago White Awake launched a website, developed a series of workshops, and began to promote the offerings incubated locally to a larger network of sanghas and community organizations across the nation.

Over the course of 2015, White Awake has broken new ground, resulting in many of the contributions noted in the newsletter content that follows this introduction:

  • a race-focused Beloved Community Program at BuddhaFest last summer
  • seminal talks by IMCW Guiding Teachers Tara Brach and Hugh Byrne
  • a deepening ability to connect with POC leadership in the Buddhist sanghas, including Insight teacher Ruth King and Zen priest Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei, also featured below

Spiritual communities and nonprofit organizations throughout the country (CA, CO, MI, WI, MA, NY) have contacted us for support in using the curriculum tools offered for free on our website. White Awake is featured in an upcoming article with the Washington Post, a book from Yale Press, and a University of Wisconsin PhD dissertation…and we’ve even been invited to submit a book proposal with a major publisher ourselves!

White Awake is a collaborative project. The work before us is exciting, inspirational, and focused on building a rich infrastructure through which we can engage with you and bring your wisdom back to the larger community!

What we have planned can only be done with your support – White Awake relies on contributions such as yours to keep the project going. We hope that you will consider including us in your end-of-year giving; you can make a donation online. If you’d like to learn more about how your contribution will be used, please take a look at our “Plans for 2016” newsletter post, below.

We are deeply honored to call you our “sangha” – our community – and we look forward to growing with you over the coming year.

With warmth,

Eleanor Hancock
Director, White Awake

PS: Dear friend, thank you for signing the Open Letter on Charleston this past summer. Given that White Awake is a primary source of support for white teachers and sangha members who are committed to racial justice, and is affiliated with Buddhists for Racial Justice, we have added you to our mailing list. If you don’t want to receive these, you can easily unsubscribe at the bottom of this email, however we hope you’ll stay on and even forward this among your contacts!

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