Bill chats with Dana and Laura Connell, Co-Chairs of Kenilworth Union’s newly created Racial Justice Committee (RJC). Website, programs, and introduction to Sally Campbell’s “Whose Bootstraps” poem are revealed.
Racial Justice Committee
Bill: Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my assistant minister. I have some wonderful guests here today. This is Dana and Laura and Lexi Connell. Lexi is a good friend of Doogie, we have play dates once in a while.
Now Laura and Dana, the three of us along with my wife Kathy have been good friends almost since I arrived here. You are my good friends, I’m not unprejudiced, but I feel so fortunate to have exactly the two of you chairing our new Racial Justice Commission. And so all modesty aside, tell Kenilworth Union Church why I’m so delighted to have precisely you doing this job. Tell us about your family and your professional backgrounds. That’s what I’m talking about, your professional backgrounds that make me so excited about this.
Laura: All right, I’ll go first. I’m a physical therapist. I’ve been a physical therapist my whole career and I love what I do. And I also love that we have three daughters and two sons-in-law and one daughter has a fiancé. Our oldest daughter Sarah is married to Will and they live in Colorado and have a four-year-old boy and an almost two-year-old boy, and our middle daughter Lindsay is married to Bill, and Bill Evertsberg married them, and they have a 14 month-old little boy. And our youngest daughter Jane is engaged to Brett and they’re trying to figure out how to get married during COVID.
Bill: Tricky tricky, I know all about that.
Dana: So I am wrapping up 38 years as a labor and employment lawyer in January. Looking forward to retirement after that. And one fact that our viewers may not know is that Laura and I were married on July 3, 1981, which was exactly one week I believe after you and Kathy.
Bill: That’s correct. So Laura and Dana, it’s that combination of your career in medicine and in law, especially labor law, that makes me excited to have you in charge of the racial justice commission, so tell us how that got started and tell us about the mission.
Laura: You called Dana and asked him if he would head it, and after he hung up with the conversation with you, he told me about it. And I thought, I want to do that. So I guess he called you back and said can we be co-chairs. So I’m grateful that I was able to weasel my way in to being a co-chair and we’re looking forward to the work of the committee.
Dana: And obviously the timing of this is that it follows the death of George Floyd in the summer of this year, actually in May of this year, and a lot of appropriate attention on that topic and something we’re excited to work with the church on.
Bill: Thanks, Dana and Laura. And now just to tell the congregation, Laura is going to be a trustee on our board as the co-chair of the racial justice commission, so that’s important to know. Some of us were so devastated by what happened to George Floyd on May 25 of this year, and you’re helping us to make a small response to that event in the life of America. So Laura and Dana, tell us what the mission is. What are you hoping to accomplish with the racial justice commission?
Dana: You know Bill, I think we can start with, we have a mission statement, our foundational scripture I think is also foundational scripture for the church, and I think it’s Micah 6:8 which is “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with the Lord, our God.” So we really kind of start there, and Laura do you want to pick up on the…
Laura: And then we have three points that we’ll address. The first one is education/awareness, and that’s the first thing that we’ll be focusing on. We’re going to have a program November 9. Bill is going to be hosting. We have a poem by Sally Campbell called “Whose Bootstraps?” and we’re going to be unrolling part of the website that focuses on our committee that will have a copy of that poem and a lot of other information and interesting videos and podcasts. We’ll have a fact that will change every week and we’ll have a copy of our mission statement. We’ll have a video or a podcast or an article that will change every month and we hope it’ll be something that people want to check in on and send to their families and their friends.
Dana: The rest of our mission statement has to do with building bridges, both to African-American Christian communities and also to other local houses of worship that are interested in this same idea and this work, and Laura has already been in contact with a number of other churches and they’re doing similar things.
And then finally, the final guiding principle of the three is action and justice. It’s not easy to do in COVID, but we’ll certainly be looking for opportunities for people in the church, including us, to put our faith into action.
Bill: So you’re using this downtime of sheltering in place to prepare for a time when we can go more out into the community and work for justice and peace. With our fellow Christians and Jews and Muslims in the area—it’s actually quite a robust movement for racial justice in this very homogenous community, and Laura and Dana are going to help us build bridges with other Christans doing that kind of work. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel.
Dana: Can we mention the rest of our committee, because they’ve really been—they’re terrific.
Laura: Sally Campbell, Diane Rand, Scott Myers, Henry White, Tommy McAtamney, Michael Hollings, and Susan Bondurant. And they’re all spectacular and really active. We’re so happy we have them.
Bill: You guys are the recruiters, I’m kind of ex-officio but you guys have been delegating the work and it’s been beautiful, two of your members are compiling an impressive list of resources. So we’re hard at work, watch for our enterprises and endeavors in the future.
Laura and Dana, thank you so much to you, to your children and grandchildren for spearheading this effort, I’m talking about your grandchildren and children loaning you two to Kenilworth Union for a while, so we’re grateful for all of that. This is Laura and Dana’s backyard. Thanks for hosting the five of us plus Matt, our videographer. God bless you.