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Say the Wrong Thing: Stories and Strategies for Racial Justice and Authentic Community

saythewrongthingBy Dr. Amanda Kemp. Joy Will Come Press, 2016. 46 pages. $20/paperback; $9.99/eBook.

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Turn a corner these days, and you will run into a new book on racism. Many of them will offer you a thought-provoking ride. What makes Amanda Kemp stand out in the heart and mind of this black Quaker was her ability to draw me into her community. I found myself invested in where she was leading.

A large part of where she took me is a journey, with family and friends. In writing to her son, Kemp quotes Frantz Fanon: “Every generation must . . . discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it.” The pithy quote of Fanon stands alone as much as it relates to the letter to her son. I found it a double blessing, to view the quote in two wholistic directions.

A while back on a Quaker website there was a lot of interest in an essay in the 2016 book The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race. People were blazing on the introduction by editor Jesmyn Ward, and her focus on Trayvon Martin (it was excellent!). As I read the focus of many white Quakers, I sensed a loss of relating the four key words of the title, The Fire This Time. “This time” does mean moving beyond the past, even as it is held up and examined. The heat of violence that we know relates to other stories. In Fire, a man writes of walking the streets of Kingston, Jamaica; New Orleans; and New York City. Kemp offers the reader similar journeys with provocative guide posts, which ask of the reader both energy and effort.

Say the Wrong Thing is a slim volume. Here you ought not to focus on word count. Kemp doesn’t waste any words. I read the eBook version on my phone, and was able to follow links to songs and other material.

Kemp raises up a useful process in offering a five-step strategy called H.E.A.R.T.:

  • Hold space for transformation: Practice unconditional acceptance of what is and who is.
  • Express yourself: Share from the heart.
  • Act with intention: Take action even if it is imperfect.
  • Reflect on yourself: Cultivate self-awareness.
  • Trust the process: Let yourself and others be uncomfortable. Be gentle with yourself as you grow.

In her dedication of the book, Kemp writes: “For the Tribe of the Heart, people who stand for Oneness and Justice, who are consciously co-creating the Great Shift.” Kemp won me over with those words. I found them alive and beating in her message.

Greg Williams is a member of Beacon Hill Meeting in Boston, Mass. (New England Yearly Meeting). Greg is working around in-reach and outreach relating to racial justice concerns. He recently received a Legacy Grant from NEYM to address this concern.


Posted in: January 2017 Books, Quakers in the Workplace

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