East District to sponsor 2nd cross-racial dialogue

The East District will hold its second interracial topical dialogue in its “Walking With: An African American Experience” series next Friday to Saturday, May 17-18. And it will happen at a church that probably knows a lot about cross-racial study and dialogue: First UMC of Germantown (FUMCOG).

The Rev. Tracy Bass will convene the gathering of clergy and laity to watch and discuss the documentary “Stranger Fruit,” a 2017 American documentary film about the 2014 killing of African American teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.

The film documents civil unrest in Ferguson following the decision to not indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for Brown’s death. It includes previously unpublished surveillance video that director Jason Pollack alleges was concealed from jury members and the public in order to tarnish Brown’s image.

District members will converse about African American history and its present-day ramifications, perhaps using the film as a reference point.  “Walking With…” will begin with dinner Friday, at 6 PM, followed by viewing and discussion of the documentary. The body will reconvene Saturday morning at 8 AM for breakfast, and resume their talks until 2 PM. Each church is asked to send up to five participants.

Bass hosted a similar district dialogue in February 2017, at Washington Crossing UMC. Over a hundred participants viewed and discussed the film “13th” about the history of mass incarceration of black Americans that began after the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment was passed in 1865. That post-Civil War law banned slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted…”  

The film was a starting point for a roomful of district members—black, white, Latino and Korean—to engage in wide-ranging table discussions about race, racism and oppression and to report some of their discoveries and reactions to the plenary body. Another large, interracial gathering is expected to attend this weekend for a similar encounter.

They will gather at a socially progressive church that has historically challenged social norms of inequality and injustice in various contexts, including race. Conversations on Race is a long-running dialogue group at FUMCOG that meets monthly to digest and discuss literature and other media that address race and racism in the U.S.

The group, led by John and Lisa Chapman, engaged this year in a “racial audit” of the church, with help from the Rev. Tamie Scalise, associate pastor. They will host an open mic/spoken word celebration of the seminal black author James Baldwin, reading, reciting and discussing his ideas and works on Saturday, May 11, from 7 to 9 PM.