Calling MCC to honor its Antiracist Commitment sign now

Friends:

Many of us were deeply troubled to learn of the dismissal of our colleague and friend Dionicio Acosta from MCC East Coast earlier this year. His termination came on the heels of the resignation of MCC Human Resources Director Kathy Jackson. Together, the departures of these two talented people of color reminded us of how much work remains to be done within MCC. Based on our relationships with Dionicio and Kathy, we have felt called to act with a new sense of urgency. We are prompted further to take new action based on documentation of MCCвs recurrent inability to make substantive anti-racism changes and the emerging record of people of color who have departed from MCC in recent years whether in large or small part due to frustrations stemming from institutional racism. Thus we are inviting all members of MCCвs constituency who care about MCCвs future as an anti-racist organization to join us in signing the following letter and taking the proposed action. We would be delighted to talk with you further about our reasons for proposing this action.

Sincerely,

Tim Barr
[email protected]

Calenthia Dowdy
[email protected]

Brenda Zook Friesen
[email protected]

Karissa Ortman Loewen
[email protected]

Conrad Moore
[email protected]

Yvonne Platts
[email protected]

Tobin Miller Shearer
[email protected]

Regina Shands Stoltzfus
[email protected]


Addresses of Anti-racism Organizations:

The Peopleвs Institute for Survival and Beyond
601 N. Carrollton
New Orleans, LA 70119
http://www.pisab.org/

Crossroads Ministries
P.O. Box 309
Matteson, IL 60443-0309
http://www.crossroadsantiracism.org/

Damascus Road
21 S. 12th St.
PO Box 500
Akron, Pennsylvania 17501-0500
http://mcc.org/damascusroad/



May 26, 2009

To:
Arli Klassen в MCC Executive Director в [email protected]
Herman Bontrager в MCC Board Chairperson в [email protected]
Rolando Santiago в MCC US Executive Director в [email protected]
Ann Graber Hershberger в MCC US Chairperson в [email protected]
Don Peters - MCC Canada Executive Director в [email protected]
Neil Janzen - MCC Canada Chairperson в [email protected]

Dear MCC chairs and executive directors,

We write to you as constituents who are concerned about the strength of MCCвs commitment to anti-racism. We have noted over the last number of months cause for both celebration and concern. Several of you have stated your commitment to an anti-racist agenda and, at least within MCC US, are planning for a limited anti-racism audit. Likewise, participants in the New Wineskins process have recommended that вjustice and peace-buildingв become a mission priority of the organization. These are hopeful signs. At the same time, staffing cuts and resignations have resulted in a disproportionate loss of people of color at the leadership levels of the organization. We are aware of many other people of color who have left MCC under undesirable circumstances in the last three decades.

These events point to a recurring pattern. MCC has a history of being confronted about racist practices, committing itself to reform, and then returning to old ways. For example, in 1979 African-American leaders in the Mennonite church pointed out that Mennonite Central Committee was вa racist institution which believes in equality but does not practice it in all areas of its involvement.в [1] Meetings between Mennonite Church Black Caucus leaders and MCC administrators followed, as did assurances that change would ensue. Yet, reports in 1993, 1998, 2001, 2003, and 2005 testified to ongoing problems that remained unaddressed. [2]

We refuse to believe that MCC has to perpetuate this cycle of confrontation, commitment, and failure to act. At the same time, we remain hopeful that concrete challenge from constituent members will bring about a different result. To that end, as a first step we are committing ourselves and will encourage our congregations to withhold fifty percent of our normal MCC contributions until such time as:

1) MCC follows through on its current intention to undergo an independent anti-racism audit of both existing and proposed structures of the entire institution;

2) the executive committees of MCC U.S., Bi-national, and Canada have made themselves structurally accountable for their anti-racist actions to independent groups of people of color who are knowledgeable about MCC in North America and able to identify and articulate institutional racism;

3) the internal MCC anti-racism teams are given time, financial resources, and demonstrable authority to carry out their respective missions.

We invite signers to send their withheld funds to anti-racism organizations such as Peopleвs Institute for Survival and Beyond, Crossroads Ministries, or Damascus Road until such time as these actions have been taken. Addresses for these organizations appear below.

We ask to meet with the executive directors named above, the MCC Anti-Racism Coordinator, and members of that officeвs Community Reference Council by September 1, 2009, to evaluate whether these actions have been taken. Based on the outcome of that meeting, we will then either invite signatories of this letter to return to their and their congregationsв normal giving patterns or encourage continued and increased withholding.

We make these commitments with the clear understanding that we, as constituency members, are connected to this organization and wish only the best for its continued success. At the same time, the recurring history of actions harmful to people of color and beneficial to white people demands bolder action than we have previously taken. We hope that this action will be the first step in an ongoing conversation with you about MCCвs anti-racism practices.

We remain, in good hope,

Footnotes
1. Dwight McFadden to William T. Snyder, June 14, 1979, Elkhart, IN. Available from Mennonite Church Archives, Goshen, IN, I-6-7 African-American Mennonite Association, Records, 1969, 1976-91, Box 28 (Large), Folder Mennonite Central Committee 28/1.

2. Memorandum by Rick Derksen, вRecommendations from Various MCC Diversity/Culture/Racism Reports,в July 7, 2008, Akron, PA.

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Blanca MercerBy:
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Petition target:
MCC chairs and executive directors

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