Lighting the Light for Healing Our Nation
On July 22, 2012, ten CTTT members from metropolitan New York City and Boston gathered in the Manhattan home of Sylvia and Byron Lewis to break bread together at the table of sister- and brotherhood and share their stories with one another. This was the third meeting of the Northeastern CTTT group, and clearly it won’t be their last. One look at this photo reveals the warmth and healing connection present among them.
Says Sylvia, “We don’t wallow in guilt or anger. Instead, we focus on accountability and reconciliation. Much of our work is difficult. That’s why I love the spirit, camaraderie and commitment. I also welcome the chance to share my Caribbean-Soul food traditions with my CTTT family. That’s the fun part. It’s a blessing really that CTTT provides us a simple yet unique way to be more authentic. We actually DO gather ‘at the table’ in our local meetings. Very few people sit down to talk and listen to each other like we do. So, I do believe that we are lighting the light for healing our nation.”
Sylvia’s husband, Byron Lewis Sr., a descendant of emancipated slaves, says “I admire the truly spiritual and possibly revolutionary nature of the CTTT meetings that have taken place in our home.”
Three thousand miles away in the Bay Area, another CTTT affiliated group calling themselves “Welcome to the Table” has been meeting monthly since April of 2011, averaging 18 people every month for facilitated dialogue and story sharing. In December 2011 they held a one-day workshop, “Tools for Building a Healing Community.” On July 21, 2012, five WTTT members attended a memorial service together at Port Chicago, CA, to honor the victims of the 1944 massive munitions explosion there, America’s worst homefront disaster of WWII. Says Holly Fulton, one of the group’s co-founders, “Of the 320 men killed, 202 were African Americans. Our group will be partnering in some way with the “The Friends of Port Chicago” which is a non-profit committed to furthering education about this history.”
The first local CTTT group started in 2009 in Seattle, when six women from the Puget Sound area began meeting informally every month or two. In 2010 they adopted the name New Legacy Puget Sound, and designed and conducted a very successful six-week course, funded by CTTT, titled “Healing Together: Addressing Slavery in Our Families’ Histories.” The group supported five African heritage descendants of enslaved people and five European heritage descendants of enslavers to research their families’ connections to slavery, and to explore together the implications for their lives today. CTTT contracted the main facilitators of the course, Pat Russell and Ann Holmes Redding, to write a guidebook for use by others wanting to offer something similar in their own communities. (Download “Healing Together” guidebook here.)
Meanwhile back on the East Coast, Art Carter and Phoebe Kilby have co-facilitated four retreats for folks from the Mid-Atlantic States. The group has focused on establishing agreed upon values and guidelines for relating to one another, sharing their stories, and developing a plan for future activities. They are especially interested in partnering with local organizations to highlight and undo some of the many aftermaths of slavery evident in their communities. Currently, Art and Phoebe are in conversation with the Remembering Slavery, Resistance and Freedom Project of Virginia’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Commission, who are promoting healing dialogues in Fauquier County and Richmond, VA. Art also helped start a much more localized group where he lives on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. That group has been meeting for two years.
More local groups around the country are hopefully on the way. A July 2012 conference call for CTTT members wanting to start a group near them drew 12 participants from 12 different states.
The transformational nature of the CTTT approach requires that we meet face to face so that we can build authentic relationships, strong enough to withstand the challenges of honestly facing our past, present and future together. National meetings are expensive and logistically too demanding to provide enough opportunities for “in the flesh” connection and healing. The future of CTTT lies in local and regional groups, with occasional National Gatherings to help bind us all together, coast to coast. Our virtual Community is crucial as well – our Facebook group, Twitter feed, private Social Network (see the “Join Our Online Community” link on the right side of this page), conference calls, website and newsletter – to share our love, encouragement and information with one another across the miles.
CTTT board members, including some of our local group leaders, are currently drafting policies for how the national organization and local groups related to one another. The intent is for the local groups to be autonomous, with a loose affiliation to the national organization based on mutual agreement, aligned missions and shared values.
If you’d like to connect with one of the existing local groups or start a new one near you, contact CTTT Community Coordinator Tom DeWolf here.
Enjoy the blessings of a table of sister- and brotherhood in your neighborhood!