People often reach out to Be the Bridge letting us know how one of our offerings transformed their lives. Michelle Bannister of Redlands California shares her experience from our Be the Bridge 101 course. Her story gives hope that a deeper understanding will bring meaningful change, and that it’s never too late to do the next right thing.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in Be the Bridge.
I’m in the early stages of becoming aware of the issues of racial injustice and the need for the work of racial reconciliation. I can literally say that just three months ago I was a completely different person! But, oh what the Lord has been opening my eyes, my heart and my mind to ever since the murder of George Floyd. Within a short time after his death, I heard Latasha Morrison reference two books on Beth Moore’s Instagram page and I decided to purchase both books on audio. The first was Latasha’s book, Be the Bridge, and the second was Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise. While listening to both books, I had to pause at many points to weep and pray about everything I was hearing. The listening process was both humbling and eye-opening, and this initial experience brought about something completely transformative in my life. I have again become aware of something I didn’t see before, and what I now see requires a change in the way I live.
Why did you decide to participate in Be the Bridge 101?
I found myself wanting to know more. In July, I joined the BTB Facebook group, I started following people of color on Instagram, I watched the movie Just Mercy, and by August I signed up for the BTB 101 course.
How did this experience transform you or your thinking about the issue of racism?
I grew by leaps and bounds in my understanding of racism through the BTB 101 course. I walked away with an introduction to new terms, an exposure to a wider range of the issues, and a wealth of additional resources to pursue on my own as I continue the journey.
However, the biggest and most immediate impact came in the blessing of a restored personal relationship. Increasingly over the last couple of years, I had experienced greater difficulty in communicating with my sister. She’s a high-school history teacher and has been aware of the issues surrounding systemic racism for some time now. With me always taking a hardline, “conservative Christian” attitude in our discussions, our conversations tended to become divided very quickly, if they even happened at all. The learning process that I’m currently engaged in has already started to change the dynamics of our relationship, and meaningful conversations are beginning to take place between us once again!
Would you recommend this class to others and why?
Without question, I would recommend this class! One thing I appreciated was how much time the facilitators were able to devote to Q&A. It was so helpful to hear others wondering about some of the same things I was wrestling with, as well as hear the questions from people further along in their journey. And the course included such a large team of facilitators, there was always a wide range of perspectives and personal experiences shared during the answering phase.
What was the most helpful part of the class? What was the most challenging?
For me, the most helpful part of the class was observing the facilitators as they communicated with one another, and addressed questions posed by the attendees. They were discussing difficult, heavy topics yet they did so with a depth of knowledge and strength of character, as well as with poise and composure. Even when their perspectives were different from another facilitator, or when they were fielding a question that conveyed a tone of doubt or reservation, they did so with humility and compassion. To me, they modeled what real conversation should look like, and I was grateful to see this in action.
To my surprise, this was also the most challenging aspect of the course for me, as it made me realize how much growth I need in my conversations.
I’m embarrassed to admit how quick I’ve been to write off the perspective of someone I do not understand or agree with, or simply avoid difficult conversations altogether.
Observing the facilitators as they modeled support and respect through difficult topics was convicting, yet it also gave me hope that I can learn to participate in healthy dialogue on the issues of racism.
How are you going to live differently because of this class? How did it change you?
Something one of the facilitators mentioned toward the end of the course resonated with me…it was the idea of simply doing the next best thing. I still have much to learn about racial injustice, and I can’t expect more from myself than I can do based on where I’m currently at in my journey. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything! Immediately after the course, I spent some time praying about what I could do right now. I came up with a list of twelve things. My list includes such things as signing up to become a member of the NAACP and sending an email to my pastor to let him know I’m interested in being involved in the work of racial reconciliation at our church. These are very small steps, but they are things that I can do right now. And when I finish this list, I plan to create another list of the next best things. I’ll keep doing this to help me stay the course, as I plan for this to be a lifelong pursuit. I don’t know where the journey will take me, but I have no desire to become stagnant, as I see how important the work is toward racial reconciliation!