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How we got started: 2017-2020

June 2017-Interest Developed

The interest of some Pilgrim members to focus on the UCC curriculum "White Privilege--Let's Talk" bonded the initial committee of 5 and they formed the "White Privilege Team". The team consisted of Lucy Wyka, Rachel Gutridge, Ron Wildasin, Henry Wagner, Kris Fisher. We concentrated on moving through the 6 sessions and reflecting on our personal histories as they relate to race. Later in the year, we invited Edith Swan to talk to us about her experiences growing up in segregated Milwaukee.

February 2018: The Committee is Named

The committee changed its name to Racial Justice Committee to focus on the broader issues in today's society.

March 2018: New Partnerships are Formed

Our committee began some discussions with "One Community" in Milwaukee which was looking for churches that are interested in a program that brings a largely white church together with a largely black church. They gathered the two churches together for a 4 session conversation learning about each other and to learn about "structural cause of segregation" in Milwaukee. The ultimate goal was for the two churches to develop a strong bond and willingness to meet with a local legislator who will be an ally for change. Our committee began watching on Netflix/DVD's historical documentaries like "Race-The Power of Illusion" to gain more knowledge on our countries history.

April 2018: A Keynote Speaker makes an Impression

A couple of members of our group attended the UCC SE Association meeting, which had keynote speaker, Reggie Jackson, of the Black Holocaust Museum. This excellent presentation again presented a history of Milwaukee's black community and then challenged us to take the next step in improving ourselves on the matter of race relations. (See Article: Get out of your bubble)

June 2018: Our Purpose Statement is Created

Visited Emanuel UCC, Rev. Bill Utke, to get insight on how they developed their program with the insight from the White Privilege curriculum. We began some serious discussions about how we might invite our church members into the discussion of race. We finalized a purpose statement for our committee.

November 2018: An Eye Opener

The video documentary "13" was shown at Pilgrim. In addition to inviting our own church members, we had a few others from 3 other churches. It was "eye opener" in regards to the American experience for our black community.

After spending months determining how our committee could invite our congregation into the discussion from the White Privilege curriculum, we felt the time was right to move forward.

January 2019: The First Congregational Education Program

We began a 6 session series of "White Privilege: Let's Talk" with 9 participants from our congregation. It was well received and rewarding to our committee to hear people openly discuss the subject.

Over the course of at least 18 months, Pilgrim became a part of a consortium of 5 UCC churches who met to discuss race. When our leader from First Congregational Church in Port Washington retired, the leadership position was not filled and the organization dissipated.

Mid 2019: A Search for Partnerships

Actions Considered: The committee started the search for additional partnerships and our consideration turned back to One Community, but that program had been dropped. We also considered reoffering the "White Privilege" program to our congregation since the first offering was so successful. And consideration of a new direction by begin active in groups like Bridge the Divide or to support groups as an ally due to the unrest in different parts of the country.

Action taken: In the spring and summer we hung a series of placards around the back of the sanctuary which were titled "Crossing the Line" from the Wisconsin Historical Society. These provided insight to the marches and unrest in Milwaukee between 1967-68.

March 2020: Pandemic Thwarts Presentation

We decided to show segments of the Louis Gates narration of "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross". An invitation was sent to our congregation as well as other local churches. The date of the show was March 15, 2020, the weekend the pandemic closed our church's physical doors for the next year.


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