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Truth, Heart, Healing: Working with Spirit transforms

Niyonu Spann and Lucy Duncan
Niyonu Spann and Lucy Duncan Photo: Vanessa Julye / Vanessa Julye

Niyonu Spann and I presented a keynote address at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting sessions this summer in which we examined the anatomy of racism in individuals and organizations and explored how the Spirit can break through the dynamics of white supremacy to offer healing and transformation. The session was described in the yearly meeting epistle this way:

On Saturday evening, Friends Niyonu Spann and Lucy Duncan partnered in mythic and personal storytelling that brought us face to face with the pain and healing that come from working through the “generational trauma” of racism and white supremacy among us. “So much of our truth,” Niyonu and Lucy told us, “is locked in ‘inappropriate’ stories to share” — yet without confronting one another boldly in truth, we are doomed to festering wounds and spreading injustice. “We must go through the pain of recognizing so we can be a whole community.” If we look beyond our tears at each murder, each miscarriage of justice, we will see the systematic patterns we need to change. We must hold on through rage, ice and fire until we return ourselves to humanity.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting agreed to let me republish an excerpt of the talk and the full video here at Acting in Faith. This first video is a telling of the folk story Tam Lin in which the tranformative power of love is vividly described, as is the place we go when we are not able to be, or refuse to be, fully human.  Niyonu shares the vulnerable truth of her own experience of racism within a Quaker context and I share more about the process of awakening to the deep damage of racism and the persistence of the numbness of white supremacy. We also describe moments and openings for healing.

It's hard to get a sense of what was shared without watching the full talk, so I hope the shorter video might entice you to watch the whole session. Let us know (in the comments) your impressions and thoughts in response.

Excerpt: The Story of Tam Lin (13:43)

Lucy Duncan - The Story of Tam Lin from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting on Vimeo.

Full Video: Truth, Heart, Healing: Working with Spirit Transforms! (1:20:43)

Niyonu Spann & Lucy Duncan - Truth, Heart, Healing: Working with Spirit Transforms! from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting on Vimeo.


About the Author

Lucy was the Director of Friends Relations from 2011-2021. 

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