When we think of the work of racial reconciliation, its easier to picture churches and people in large, diverse settings coming together. It’s harder to picture it happening in a small town. In Alabama. But that’s where Brandie’s story takes place. In 2015, Brandie had just moved back to her small, hometown in northern Alabama. And as she says of the experience, “my life was white”. The circles she was in at work, home, or church were all predominately or entirely White spaces. When she watched Latasha, the founder of Be the Bridge, lead a round table discussion about race on the stage at a women’s conference, she felt as though she got a message she didn’t even realize she was desperately waiting for. She had never actively engaged in racial reconciliation work before, but she knew she needed to step into it.
Brandie shares what happened next. “I entered into a season of prayer and learning. The Lord continued to bring a black woman, Tekeisha, to my mind throughout this season, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to bring up this conversation in the context of our limited interactions. Tekeisha and I didn’t know each other well. We actually just happened to attend the same meeting a few times a week through work and rarely spoke one-on-one. But the thing about Tekeisha was I knew the Spirit of the Living God lived inside of her.
One day, I got up the courage to send her the promo video of Be the Bridge through Facebook Messenger. While she was excited about the resource, she was not able to commit at that time. I continued the season of praying and learning, uncertain of the next step. But then July 2016 happened. On July 5, Alton Sterling was shot followed by the shooting of Philando Castile on July 6. In the days after, racial tensions soared and I knew, as Christians, we had the ministry of reconciliation and Jesus was the answer. But the church….we have not been a credible witness to that truth. My heart broke as I thought about the world being unable to believe anything we would say about Jesus being the ‘answer’ to broken racial relations when it has justified racism and white supremacy and upheld segregation. I was reminded of the goals of Be the Bridge, one of which is for the ‘church to be credible.’
So, I sent another message to Tekeisha. We no longer saw each other regularly due to job changes, but I knew the Lord had ordained our meeting. We both agreed; it was time. We hosted a women’s event in August 2016 for the ladies of her church (predominately black) and my church (predominately white) and they came! We had over sixty women come together and the Lord did mighty works over a table. We divided the ladies into diverse small groups of six where they engaged in simple conversation. That night we showed the promo video for Be the Bridge and had a sign-up sheet for anyone interested. From that night, three groups of diverse women began meeting and working through the Be the Bridge curriculum.
I remember the first meeting of each group. The awkwardness, but excitement and anticipation that this is a God-honoring process that we get to be a part of. They chose to meet in a public place because they all agreed the community needed to witness women of different races coming together (which has been a beautiful to witness). Eyes and hearts have been opened.”
Out of these groups have come not just surface level interactions, but deep, meaningful friendships that are constantly reshaping the way each woman views the world, how they engage with one another, and the ways they live their lives.
“When your friend of color tells you their son was scared when he was pulled over by the police? The headlines become real people.
When your friend admits they said or believe something that upholds white supremacy? Confession, forgiveness and grace takes on a new meaning.
When you thought a year of praying for racial reconciliation was ‘too long’ but enter into relationships with women of color that have been praying for decades for the same thing? You realize endurance and perseverance have just begun.
When the manager of a local restaurant asks what type of meeting you are having and worries, telling his staff he hopes he is not going to have to call the police; but months later, this same staff brings cookies to your group as a ‘thank you’? You know what it means to be salt and light in a dark world.
When white allies are unable to identify or define their culture but press in and learn, acknowledge, and look for ways to put aside privilege? Solidarity and unity are lived out beautifully.”
Their groups are done going through the curriculum the first time, but their work isn’t done yet.
“All three groups completed the curriculum, meeting once monthly. After the completion of the initial curriculum (1.0 version that is no longer available), we gave an option for women to continue the process through monthly meetings and community engagement. We currently have one group that continues to meet monthly. The white allies of the group have completed the Whiteness 101 curriculum and the Be the Bridge groups are currently working through the 2.0 guide. This group of women are purposely pursuing relationships outside of the monthly meetings including family dinners, game nights, movies, etc.”
They even had a pajama party together.
Leaders emerged who were once participants and have taken ownership of the groups. One of those leaders is a women of color, Diann, who has prayed for this for years. When asked how BTB has impacted her life, she says, “Be the Bridge has rekindled my belief in Dr. King’s dream for a diverse people to live together and work toward peace and unity. More than that, I believe Be the Bridge is part of God’s plan to unite the Body of Christ so that His ultimate plan for salvation will prevail. Be the Bridge has changed my ways of thinking about others. When people respond in seemingly insensitive, prejudicial ways, a lot of it comes from layers of generational influences. That can be changed when we sit together at the table and identify the elephant in the room. With determination and transparency, change can happen where change is necessary for God’s will to be done in the earth.”