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Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves session 4 Facilitator's Guide

Accompaniment as anti-racist practice

 

Welcome!

  • Homework check in: Did you learn anything new about detention centers near you? What was it like to call or email your governor and Congresspeople?
  • Prework reflection: What was it like to reflect on times that someone was or wasn’t there for you? What feelings did it bring up?

Centering and Grounding

Tammerie Day – excerpt from the book, Constructing Solidarity for a Liberative Ethic: Anti-Racism, Action, and Justice

“To live into an anti-racist identity through a commitment to solidarity with peoples of color, white individuals and predominantly white communities do better to listen to communities of color long enough to discern the interests of those communities, then working to understand how those interests are held in common with one’s own community, and committing energies to working for those interests in mutuality. As noted above, the formation of relationships with sufficient trust to enable this collaboration requires time and evidence of followership; it also requires – and helps to develop – accountability and mutuality.” 

Being there for each other

  • In preparation for this session, we asked you to do some reflecting on experiences in your life when someone was there for you, and when they weren’t, and what those experiences felt like. We’re going to invite a few people to share their stories, and you’re welcome to share yours briefly as well. We’ll follow up by asking them some questions, and then talk about the commonalities we see amongst the stories. 

  • Was there: Bob Brown, he/him/his

    • I had health issues. A friend asked me if I had arranged help for when I returned home (I live by myself). This friend reminded me that I needed to reach-out to friends for support. I did and people responded. I felt the support of my community and was happy to give people the opportunity to help me.

  • Was there: Beth Kopicki, she/her/hers

    • Years ago, in the midst of a very snowy winter, I awoke one morning to find my entire long driveway up a steep hill covered in inches of snow and glazed with an inch of ice. I felt awestruck when a wOman I had been dating drove 45 minutes to help me. I felt heard, cared for, and supported, and able to feel needy. Reflecting back, I felt loved even though I was needy. I also found it more difficult for me to identify instances when someone was there for me than times when I showed up for others.

  • Wasn’t there: Jessica McCoy, she/her/hers

    • Lonely. Isolated. Disappointed. Hurt. Betrayal. Loss of trust. When I think back on those times, I still feel sad and a bit angry. When I have a continued relationship with someone who hasn't been there when I needed them, there has been a need to repair and forgive them, and to come to an understanding about why they weren't able to be there. But if we didn't have a strong relationship to begin with, sometimes it led to an end of our relationship, or one that was much more superficial. If I can't count on you, then how can we have a relationship of substance?

  • Follow up more deeply

    • Any necesary pushback, reminders, and education
    • What feelings came up in the moment?

    • What did you feel in your body as you retell this story?

    • Did the experience connect you to something greater than yourself?

    • How might this experience impact your social justice work?

  • Reflect some commonalities from these stories and things shared in the form, what are the attributes of empathetic and principled accompaniment? Compile on shared document or flip chart.

Accompaniment

  • This is a story from Myrna Orozco about being accompanied while accompanying an immigrant woman.

    • About 10 years ago I was working in Kansas City with an organization called the Immigrant Justice Advocacy Movement. IJAM is an interfaith organization led by immigrants, clergy, and faith leaders. They helped people with detention, deportation and advocacy to ensure Kansas/Missouri are welcoming and thriving places for immigrants documented and undocumented a like, like I was 10 years ago. 

    • I remember getting a call from a family letting me know that their family member, Edith, who had given birth just days before, had been detained after a traffic stop and taken to the local jail in KS. The jail had an agreement with ICE to hold people that were undocumented so if we had any chance to try and get her out before that process started we had to move fast. 

    • I immediately called the jail to try and get more information about why she was being held, etc. The person who was in charge of the phone was super intimidating and they refused to give me any information saying I was not authorized and being really rude. I knew in that moment that my name, and a bit of an accent then - were going to be a problem so i called my backup. 

    • Laurie, is a Rev. that is leading the work of IJAM currently and is a fierce advocate for our communities. I told her I needed her to call the jail because they were refusing to give me any information. She is a white woman and clergy so when she called (she didn't ask me why she needed to call/etc. - she just did it) she was able to get all of the information I wasn't able to including when we could visit Edith to see how we could best help. She also started calling other clergy to pray and be ready in case a rapid mobilization was needed while I supported the family. 

    • When we went to visit Edith having Laurie there immediately gave me access to her privilege and while they were unhappy about it, let me in with Laurie to speak to Edith. It was such a powerful experience to accompany Edith and let her know she was not alone. That we were fighting to support her. Among her tears and thanks she shared that she was in a lot of pain. Her breasts were extremely swollen since she had given birth a few days before and the only thing the jail was providing were feminine pads. She needed a pump soon. 

    • We immediately launched into action with the jail to try and get her this immediately while we also worked on getting her out. The jail was mean, they laughed at me, and they were rude. Laurie began talking about codes, the morality of not supporting and went out and bought a pump when the jail said they didn't have a budget for it. We were able to get it in that day to give her some relief.

    • The picture you all see here, after a few more days, is when Edith was able to carry her baby and hug her dad upon being released. For me, being able to be with her and show her she was not alone, while following her family's wishes for what they wanted to do and her lead on her most immediate need was super powerful. Throughout this I was also accompanied - by Laurie, who passed on her privilege, showed up, and did everything we needed to ensure we were able to help Edith. 

  • Brainstorm and add additional attributes of principled accompaniment derived from Myrna’s example, add to document/flip chart started earlier. Consider how accompanying across racial lines or other differences in social location might change the approach we take. Attributes we compiled in the live webinar are here.

  • Share tenets of accompaniment for social change: Give a basic overview of accompaniment and how accompaniment across different lines of social location is different and similar to companioning someone in one’s family/social circle, etc.

    • Accompaniment for me is very personal. In my social location, I am a daughter of immigrants whose parents have shared with me the stories that they went through in order to survive the immigration system. As a daughter of immigrants, accompanying is in my nature. I translated documents from Spanish to English, I was the interpreter at doctor’s appointments. To this day, I advocate with them when they have to go the bank, to the doctor and right now amidst COVID-19 especially given that they do not speak the English language. I  I understand that everyone has their own social location and for that reason I want to share with you the following tenets of accompanying for social change may be helpful while accompanying. - Christina Hernandez from Freedom for Immigrants

  • Tenets of accompanying for social change (Adapted from “Implementing Small Group Social Change Ministry,” by Kelly Dignan and Kierstin Homblette.)

    • Accompaniment is hard work, and it is easy to feel lost, overwhelmed, and hopeless. These tenets, along with your group’s covenant or agreements, can help to guide you as you navigate this journey together. 

  • Tenets of accompanying for social change (have a slide/slides of these if needed), all quotes are from Christin Hernandez of Freedom for Immigrants

    • I will share a story about sisters that I’ve accompanied in Los Angeles. A relationship has been built through shared common experiences— for me it is language and culture, for others it could wbe something else, such as sharing a meal or cooking. Through conversation we learned that they needed a sponsor and found them a home in Humboldt, and we speak on occasion now, but there is now that trust or confianza as we say in Spanish between us so the sisters know that we can all count on each other.

    • I’ve been with Freedom for Immigrants for about 10 months and I learn something new from everyone that I work with everyday in the same way that we all do in this line of work. I push my own limits in trying to support folks. For example, there is a family that I work with that is outside of the county where I’m located (I’m in Los Angeles and they’re in San Bernardino), but I learn with the folks in that area and establish relationships with other groups supporting and as a team we work together towards the road of liberation.

    •  Currently there is a group of folks that I’m working with where the sponsor and the person being sponsored are running into some difficulties. However, we’ve been able to work through those difficulties together and in a calm way, and I think that stems from us knowing that we’re all in this together and that there has already been an established, trusting relationship that was established early on the in the relationship. 

    1. It’s important to have a circle of people, or network, that you can count on so that when difficulties arise, you can reach out to your network. At FFI, we have a team that I can go to when I am stuck in a new situation that I haven’t encountered before, I can reach out to them. Or when mentally, I’m having trouble understanding, I can reach out to this circle. So asking for empathic support is important. 

      Building relationships of trust and accountability with people and communities most impacted by injustice by showing up and staying in the relationships for the long haul. 

      Remembering that the liberation of everyone and everything is inherently connected, and together, we are on a learning journey toward it. 

      Walking together while navigating differences in a loving, respectful, trusting relationship. 

      Struggling together and encouraging one another’s spiritual growth. 

      Contemplating the gifts you are going to receive when accompanying, instead of how you will give, help, teach, tell, or fix. 

      Acknowledging and unlearning your patterns of dominance, like taking charge, leading. making decisions, etc. 

      Asking for and lending empathic support.

      Moving beyond asking to acting. 

      Getting out of your comfort zone (materially, emotionally, and physically) and allowing yourself to be changed by this process. 

      Disrupting the systems and structures of oppression – with integrity and in authentic community with those most impacted, following their leadership. 

    • The Latin roots of “accompanying” are: To be together (“com”) in eating bread (“panis”), face to face. Derived from academic and pastoral care resource on the topic, along with interviews by Kelly Dignan with Dr. Vincent Harding, Staughton Lynd, Rev. John Fife, Rev. Dr. Thandeka, Rev. Julie Todd, PhD, and companions in creating Beloved Community

  • As pre-work, we invited you to reflect on the following: If you have experience with accompaniment work, please share with us an experience you had doing accompaniment work that has sat with you. What are the details? How did you feel? What came up in that experience? Again, we’re going to invite a few people to share their stories, We’ll follow up by asking some questions of each story sharer, and then talk about the commonalities we see amongst the stories.

  • Lucy Candib, she/her/hers

    • For 20 years I have done medical asylum evaluations for people seeking asylum in the US because of persecution in their home countries because of their political opposition to a government, their sexual orientation or because of intimate partner violence. When I started out in the work, the client's lawyer would often bring them to my office if the client was frightened or did not know their way. At times I would take a client back to the train station or even pick them up there. Initially I felt uncertain about "helping" clients in this way--I didn't pick up or drop off my medical patients (except once) in 40 years of practice. It was not within my ordinary boundaries. Yet for asylum applicants it was obviously the right thing to do, and as time went on I grew comfortable with the trust involved. The clients disclosed incredibly intimate experiences, and made themselves far more vulnerable than I can imagine. I was fortunate to know each of them. And the asylum lawyer I worked with taught me by example.

  • Charlotte Jones Carroll, she/her/hers

    • I volunteered to accompany a woman, her six-year old daughter and her new baby from the train station to take her to an immigration court appointment. We drove to the court, had time for me to invite them to lunch at a nearby cafe, and then she was able to put her baby to sleep and hand her over to me, while she and her older child went ppl into the court. After that, we drove to another volunteer's home where she would be spending the night, in order to meet her partner, who was in detention, the next day. Since we had about an hour to kill, and she needed a toothbrush, we had a lovely walk to a nearby 7-11, where we all got ice cream in addition to the toothbrush. It was a really enjoyable experience for me -- I think she enjoyed it too, and the six year old was a total delight and the baby was sweet and snuggly. I recall how this woman in such a crisis, without much English (I spoke Spanish with her) and her hands quite full nevertheless found a way to be a joyful, loving mother and live life with determination.

  • Follow up more deeply:

    • Any necessary pushback, reminders, and education
    • What feelings came up in the moment?

    • What did you feel in your body as you retell this story?

    • Did the experience connect you to something greater than yourself?

    • How might this experience impact your social justice work?

    • How did your experience relate to the tenets of accompaniment?

Homework for this session is compiled here.