School is in Session!

Summer Learning is wrapping up their first week, and they are off to a great start! Summer Learning has 76 registered students who are entering first through fourth grade at Greensboro Elementary School. Each week, 12 certified teachers from the local community and all over the Episcopal Diocese come to teach reading and math.

In the mornings, students rotate through traditional academic rotations. We use Fountas & Pinnell Levelled Literacy Intervention and SPIRE Reading Intervention as our reading curriculum and Do the Math as our math curriculum.

After lunch, we move on to enrichment rotations of creative writing, interactive read aloud, independent reading, and a brain break on the playground.

All in all, the students will read for 70+ hours over the course of the three week program! Students are reading in every way possible—during instruction, independently, digitally, and listening to books read aloud. We can’t wait to see how much they grow!

Jumpstart is a Sawyerville Summer Learning program that hosts rising Kindergarten students for four weeks of instruction. This year, Jumpstart has 21 students, 2 teachers, and a new summer-long intern position, Jumpstart Registrar!

These students will learn most of the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and other concepts that will help them grow academically. They will also apply their knowledge from Jumpstart as they enter Kindergarten at Greensboro Elementary School in Fall 2021.

“I’ve learned how much actually goes into teaching such a young age and how much is required of rising Kindergarten students that some may not have access to without a pre-school education. The students are all learning, growing, and having fun, which is what I’m all about!”

-Caroline Ferry, Jumpstart Registrar

Remembering Fran

On June 10, 2021, Fran McKendree, a long-time Sawyerville staff member, passed away. To say Fran was a “staff member” doesn’t do him justice. Fran was an extremely talented musician, and he shared his music at Sawyerville from 2010-2019.

During the camp day, Fran played his guitar and sang with Lower Camp, the 6-8 year-olds. Fran would often write a special song to match that summer’s theme, something new just for Sawyerville. A recurring favorite was “Funga Alafia.” The words mean “We welcome you! Amen!” and Fran meant it every time. This week, Lower Camp has continued to sing “Funga Alafia” in Fran’s honor. It has made us all so happy to hear them singing and laughing up and down the halls.

Fran leading music in Lower Camp

In the evenings, Fran led music with the staff during evening worship. He had a knack for knowing exactly which song the staff needed to hear, the one that would speak to the kind of day we had had together. He knew when we needed to reflect or rest or celebrate.

Fran formed strong relationships with people from all backgrounds and of all ages. Everyone, especially the youngest campers, were drawn in by his gentle spirit. He took a genuine interest in the people he met. He made you feel seen, and he let you know, without saying a word, that what you had to share was important.

Yolanda Watkins, Sawyerville’s Transportation Coordinator, wrote that Fran is “…a piece of our puzzle that can never be replaced. When you think of the goodness of the Lord, then you realize how he places certain people into Sawyerville to make an impression on your life for a lifetime…I can’t remember a summer without our musical, smiling, love-sharing Fran.”

Yolanda and Fran in the staff cheer.

We’re digging through our past photo albums to find photos and videos of Fran at Sawyerville. You can see the growing collection here.

Fran and his music will be a part of camp forever. We encourage you to learn more about Fran and hear his music on his website.

Please join us in prayer for Fran, his family and friends, and for the Sawyerville community who loves him and will miss him dearly.

Father of all, we pray to you for Fran, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with us in our grief. Surround us with your love, that we may not be overwhelmed by our loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Greensboro, We are Here!

Moving Day!

We want to thank all of those that came out and helped us load the moving truck at St. Stephen’s, Birmingham and unload the truck at Greensboro Elementary School! We could not have done it without your helping hands, and we got a strong head start setting up for Summer Camp and Summer Learning. Many hands do make light work!

Getting Camp-Ready!

Our interns have been hard at work this week decorating the hallways, cleaning staff housing, and getting Greensboro Elementary School ready for Summer Camp and Summer Learning! Sawyerville is back in person this year, and we are so glad to return to GES and to one another. We cannot wait for our staff and campers to arrive and walk these hallways once again!

Fun in Greensboro!

Since the summer-long staff have arrived and have settled into their housing, they have had a blast in Greensboro. We cannot wait for more staff to join us, and to see campers and students. This intern team is ready for the best summer ever, and they have numerous strengths and talents that will help make this a reality!

It’s All for the Kids!

See you soon!

Summer is Coming!

Summer 2021 is about to get started, and there are lots of ways for YOU to get involved:

  1. Register Your Camper

Kids ages 6-13 from Hale County will hear Bible stories, create artwork, play games, and make new friends at Summer Camp. This year, each of the three one-week sessions hope to welcome 120 campers and 36 high school staff, and there are still spots available! Register your camper online before they fill up!

2021 Camper Dates:
Session 1: June 7 – 10
Session 2: June 21 – 24
Session 3: June 28 – July 1

2. Apply to Serve on Staff

Sawyerville is back in person this summer, and we need staff members to make Summer Camp the best that it can be! We are still in need of high school and/or college staffers that are 16+ years old, fully vaccinated, or able to become fully vaccinated by the start of their session(s) of choice. It’s all for the kids!

2021 Staff Dates:
Session 1: June 5 – 11
Session 2: June 19 – 25
Session 3: June 26 – July 2

3. Provide a Meal

We still need several meals to be provided and served for our staff, and we have spots available serving 75-80 people. If your parish, small group, or family would like to contribute, contact to get connected!

4. Help Us Move to Greensboro

Many hands make light work!

We are moving to Greensboro on Monday, May 31st, and we need YOUR help! We are loading our moving truck at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham and unloading the truck at Greensboro Elementary School, and we would love to see you at either location. If you are interested or would like more information, check out the Google Form below!

5. Purchase from our Amazon Wish List

Purchasing an item from our Amazon Wish List is a quick and easy way to get involved, even from home! We need supplies ranging from popsicle sticks and stickers to sleeping bags and collapsible wagons! You can also purchase books for our Summer Learning students from the SSL Book Wish List. Any gift, big or small, can be found on our wish lists using the links below!

Preparing for Summer 2021!

Summer-long Interns, Staff Dinners, and Greensboro High Graduation

For the past two weeks, our summer-long interns have arrived in the office, beginning with our Staff Registrars and Communications Manager, followed by our Programs Director. Shortly after, our Head Photographer, E^2 Coordinator, Meals Coordinator, Camper Registrars, Summer Camp Co-Coordinators joined the team, along with our Summer Learning Manager, Activities Coordinator, and Student Registrar. Kicking off the summer on an enthusiastic and productive note, this team has been hard at work planning for our Summer Camp, Summer Learning, and Jumpstart sessions. The interns start each day with a peer-led devotional and game, and continue to work together throughout the day.

As the summer-long interns arrived in Birmingham, meal-times have been a great way to connect with one another! Generous Diocesan parishes and families in the Birmingham area have sponsored and hosted dinners for our summer-long staff. We are so thankful for the great food, fellowship, and fun that would not be possible without this generosity.

We are still in need of meals for our summer-long and high school staff when we get to Greensboro during our camp sessions. If your parish or small group would like to donate a meal to our Sawyerville staff, contact to get connected!

Sawyerville would like to extend a ‘congratulations’ to the Class of 2021, especially the graduating class of Greensboro High School. In the face of a pandemic, these graduates persevered and finished strong at their graduation on Tuesday, May 18th. We are proud of their accomplishments and wish these graduates the best. We cannot wait to see what is in store in this next chapter of life!

The Brave Space Guest Post: Michael Goldsmith

Greetings friends! I am so grateful to you for your willingness to put your time, attention, and energy towards making all spaces Brave Spaces. Your community needs you to advocate for justice, peace, and equity for all people. I want to let you know about some of the things I am involved with in my community.

I am an Episcopal priest in Huntsville, AL. I try to do my best to live my life the way Jesus has asked me to live it.  And that means I try to love all people just like Jesus loves all people. Jesus gave his time and attention to all he encountered. He spoke out against systems of oppression and injustice. He refused to respond to violence with more violence. He healed, he taught, he loved. It helps me to remember that love is a verb, not a noun. Love means doing. If I say I love my neighbor, that means I have to act in their best interest and not just my own.

My job is to be a pastor to those who God has placed here at this church. That is my first priority and that keeps me really busy. But I am grateful that I am also able to find time to be active in my community in other ways. I want to tell you about two of those things.

I am part of a small group of Madison County residents who have formed the Madison County Remembrance Project. Our purpose is to help our community acknowledge Madison County’s history of racial terror lynching. In partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, we are collecting soil from the places where the 10 documented lynching victims were murdered in our county. We will be installing historic markers at each of these sites, and eventually placing Madison County’s EJI monument here in Huntsville. While collecting soil from the site of a lynching may seem like a simple gesture, we believe it is an important act of remembrance that will help in the process of reconciliation.

I am also honored to be a part of a group of pastors who came together after the events of last summer. North Alabama Pastors United for Change is dedicated to building relationships between pastors from black and white churches in Huntsville. Our goal is to use our collective voice to advocate for change in our community. We have published a statement of belief and a pledge to action that over 90 local pastors have signed on to. We understand that our faith means we must work for just laws and enforcement practices that treat all citizens equally and uphold the dignity of all people. I encourage you to look at the video we are offering to our community.

I continue to be grateful to Sawyerville Summer Camp and to all of you for the love you have for all of God’s people.  Remember, love is an action. Use your voice, use your power, use your love to make this world more like God wants it to be!

God’s Peace,


The Brave Space Guest Post: Abby Poole

My name is Abby Poole, and I am so happy to get to this opportunity to be a part of The Brave Space. I have been doing camp and working with Sawyerville since 2016. I am passionate about the mission Sawyerville strives for, and it has made a huge impact on my life. I would totally say Sawyerville has impacted my choice to pursue studies in social work, and I will forever be grateful for that. I want to share a little bit about myself before I jump into my main topic. I am a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I am pursuing a masters in clinical/medical social work. I graduated from Homewood High School in 2016, and I graduated from Auburn University in 2020 (yes, during this crazy pandemic) with a bachelor’s in social work. I hope to graduate from my master’s program in December of 2021 and pursue a career in social work working with people that struggle with substance use disorder. After I get my master’s, I want to work on getting my LICSW which will give me the ability to do private practice therapy. 

I have always cared a lot about race relations and advocating for those affected by racial injustice. I acknowledge that I will never understand what it is like to be judged on the basis of the color of my skin, and I will never suffer from hate or shame from being white. This is the core of white privilege. During my time at Auburn University I had some incredible professors that taught me a lot about what it means to have white privilege. I learned more about this through Sawyerville and have continued to understand what I can do with my privilege. Sawyerville has taught me so much about race relations through the Person2Person retreat, the race relations talk at staff training at Summer Camp, and conversations with staff, priests, and other Sawyerville friends. 

I started to become very passionate about social justice and the evolving issue of racism. I heard about the opportunity to work for the Jefferson County Memorial Project through visiting the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery when I went on a trip with Sawyerville during Person2Person. For those who have not been to the memorial, it has monuments for every single county in the United States engraved with the names of those lynched in that county. The Equal Justice Initiative is an organization in Montgomery that works to remember those names and educate the public about what happened and why. The work they do is beyond impactful, and they work incredibly hard to educate people on this history of racial injustice. One of their missions is to get these monuments, or one that looks exactly like it, to every county in the United States so these counties can remember the names of those lynched from their community. This is also a way to educate these counties on the work that still needs to be done and come up with a plan for how to do it. 

When I graduated from Auburn University and began my master’s program at UAB, I got an email about the opportunity to do a fellowship with the Jefferson County Memorial Project. JCMP’s mission is to come up with a plan to get the Jefferson County monument to Birmingham. This plan involves research, an education plan for the communities in Jefferson county, a detailed layout of the significance for the placement of the monument, and a team to support and advocate for this monument. I immediately emailed because I could not pass up the opportunity to help accomplish this goal or at least be a part of the stepping stones. I got accepted into the fellowship and began working with an amazing team of other students who were all like minded and passionate about the same cause. Joi Brown, the director of this program, led us in conversation over zoom about the plan for our research team to learn about the history of Linn Park and the lynchings that took place there. This topic is important because if JCMP is able to bring the monument to Birmingham, it will be placed in Linn Park. We were split into pairs and given a decade to research and write about. I got 1920-1930. The topic they suggested for us was the speech Woodrow Wilson gave at Linn park, the opening of the Birmingham Public Library, and the beautification trends of Linn park. 

My research focused on the beautification trends of Linn Park and the opening of the Birmingham Public Library. When I first thought about this topic, I was like, “Wow this is not glamorous and to be honest it sounds a bit boring.” I did not think this would really have much of an impact on the research project JCMP was doing. I found the Woodrow Wilson speech to be far more interesting and significant. Oh boy was I wrong. I learned so much about how important the process of designing, locating, and placing Linn park was and the impact it still has today. This part of the research actually had way more significance than my peers or I thought. When I began researching the history of the park, I learned that when they were designing it there was talk that they would put the library right there, in the center of the hustle and bustle of Birmingham. A library to go in the middle of a noisy city? The idea was that Linn park could be placed in the middle of the city so that people could easily get there to engage in fellowship. The thought was that this would help to unify Birmingham. How ironic though that this was the site of the first lynching that took place in Jefferson county? This fact blows my mind after finding research about the plan to “unify” Birmingham through the development of Linn Park. The opening of the Birmingham Public Library was also a plan to bring people together, give all people a place for reading and learning, and give them the resources for education. This library though was only welcoming to white people. How ironic that this also was a plan to “unify” people but did not allow people of color?

This research opportunity opened my eyes to a whole new perspective when I view Birmingham. It reminded me of the work Jefferson county has to do and it sparked more motivation to come up with a plan to get the monument from Montgomery to Jefferson County. Birmingham has so much history that is so important. We can not act like it never happened. We can not put it in the past. It is important to remember what happened so that these tragedies will never happen again. It is important to remember because our people of color deserve respect, acknowledgement, truth, and life. It is important to remember for those who did not have a voice, we must be the voice now. I hope to continue doing work with JCMP, and I hope to bring some of what I learned through this fellowship into the work that Sawyerville does towards race relations. I plan to use my privilege for good in my career as a social worker, advocating for those who cannot use their voice. I hope that if you have not visited the Legacy Museum or the National Memorial for Peace and Justice that you will go and experience it.

The Brave Space Visits The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Recently, I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) with Sawyerville mentees, mentors, and Person2Person alumni! During our introductions, each participant shared the last time they visited the BCRI. Some of us live, or have lived, in Birmingham, and the consensus was that it had been several years since anyone visited. It’s interesting that we drive and walk by parks and museums and areas of town that hold history someone spent time, money, and resources to ensure we never forget. 

I think the danger in dismissing the importance of visiting monuments and memorials in your city is forgetting that groups of people were abused and mistreated and killed. I think we allow ourselves to get so far removed from a time when we couldn’t go to school with different races, when it was illegal for black men and women to vote, or we couldn’t even use the same water fountain. The beauty in going back to the past is being reminded of why I use my voice in local, state, and national elections. I’m reminded of why I won’t isolate myself from relationships with people who refuse to acknowledge the work that race plays in my life. Ultimately, the reminder is,  “Never again.”  Whether you spend a day visiting monuments and museums, reading a race relations book, getting involved in a grassroots organization, or starting a small group at your church…do the work. 

If you’ve never been to the BCRI or if it’s been a while since your last visit, take this as a sign that it’s time to go. Learn more about their Covid-19 guidelines, hours of operation, and ticket prices here.

Introducing the 2021 Interns!

We are so excited to host Summer Camp and Summer Learning again this year! In order to meet COVID-19 guidelines, we’ll offer Summer Camp at half capacity. In an effort to meet the needs of students and to align with the Alabama Literacy Act, we’ll expand Summer Learning to include not only rising first- and second-grade students, but also rising third-grade students. We’re expecting 360 campers and 60 students in total over the course of the summer. It won’t be exactly “normal,” but it will be great!

We’ve hired a top-notch team of interns to help make this summer the best one yet. These young people come from all over the state, and they will bring a wealth of experiences, gifts, and talents to Summer Camp and Summer Learning. Without further ado, we proudly introduce the 2021 Summer Interns!

Hakeem Bennett

Role: Summer Camp Lower Camp Co-Coordinator

Hometown: Greensboro, AL

If Hakeem owned his own factory, it would make: designer shoes

Hakeem is looking forward to: Being able to actually intern in person and enjoy others company to meet a common goal.

Ella Cobbs

Role: Summer Camp Middler Camp Co-Coordinator

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Ella lived in a board game, it would be: Candy Land

Ella’s favorite quotation: “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested.” — Desmond Tutu

Carrie Dennis

Role: Sawyerville Communications Manager

Hometown: Selma, AL

If Carrie owned her own factory, it would make: coffee creamer

Carrie is looking forward to: Everything! I’m sure I can speak for everyone in the Sawyerville community when I say I miss camp, and getting to connect once again with campers and staff this summer will be amazing!

Coleman Dorlon

Role: Summer Camp Upper Camp Co-Coordinator

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Coleman lived in a board game, it would be: Settlers of Catan

Coleman’s favorite quotation: “The goal in life is not to live forever, but to create something that will.” — Juice Wrld

Caroline Ferry

Role: JumpStart Student Registrar

Hometown: Tuscaloosa, AL

If Caroline owned her own factory, it would make: sweaters

Caroline is looking forward to: I can’t wait to see all the kids, learn with them, and hang out with this amazing staff!

Claire Kimberlin

Role: Summer Camp Upper Camp Co-Coordinator

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Claire lived in a board game, it would be: Chutes and Ladders

Claire’s favorite quotation: “What’s normal anyways?” — Forrest Gump

Katherine Kimberlin

Role: Sawyerville Head Photographer

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Katherine owned her own factory, it would make: candy

Katherine is looking forward to: I am so excited to be back and to see all of the campers and staff again and to help make this summer the best summer ever! I honestly just can’t wait to see everyone since it has been so long since we’ve all been together laughing and having fun!!

Maggie Logan

Role: Sawyerville Staff Registrar

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Maggie lived in a board game, it would be: Pretty Pretty Princess

Maggie’s favorite quotation: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end” — John Lennon

Libba Manley

Role: Summer Camp Lower Camp Co-Coordinator

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Libba owned her own factory, it would make: cakes

Libba is looking forward to: I am so excited for this summer! I can’t wait to be in person for camp this year, and hang out with all the amazing people!

Lilly Martin

Role: Sawyerville Meals Coordinator

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Lilly lived in a board game, it would be: Apples to Apples

Lilly’s favorite quotation: “I eat blueberries whenever I can I can get ’em” — Flea

Billy Meadows

Role: Summer Camp E² (Experiments and Explosions) Coordinator

Hometown: Auburn, AL

If Billy owned his own factory, it would make: more factories

Billy is looking forward to: I’m excited to help do my part in giving the kids the best summer possible!

Deontae Patterson

Role: Summer Camp Camper Registrar

Hometown: Greensboro, AL

If Deontae lived in a board game, it would be: Battleship

Deontae’s favorite quotation: “Now that’s what I call quality H20” — Bobby Boucher

Maxie Sansom

Role: Summer Learning Student Registrar

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Maxie owned her own factory, it would make: water bottles

Maxie is looking forward to: I cannot wait to worship, sing, laugh, and dance with campers and staff again!

Anna Shaddix

Role: Sawyerville Staff Registrar

Hometown: Pell City, AL

If Anna owned her own factory, it would make: airplanes

Anna’s favorite quotation: “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” — Dolly Parton

Winston Smith

Role: Summer Camp Middler Camp Co-Coordinator

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Winston lived in a board game, it would be: Candy Land

Winston is looking forward to: I am so excited to get to spend my summer in Greensboro with so many amazing people including interns, staff, and the awesome campers.

Canon Tidwell

Role: Summer Learning Activities Coordinator

Hometown: Huntsville, AL

If Canon owned his own factory, it would make: bumper stickers

Canon is looking forward to: I’m super excited be back in person and plan the activities for summer learning!

Grace Turner

Role: Sawyerville Programs Coordinator

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Grace owned her own factory, it would make: hats

Grace is looking forward to: I am excited to play a role in putting on everyone’s favorite part of the summer — Summer camp!!

Mary Alison Turner

Role: Summer Learning Manager

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Mary Alison had her own factory, it would make: Icee machines

Mary Alison’s favorite quotation: “I ain’t here for a long time, I’m here for a good time”— George Strait

Evie Whitsett

Role: Summer Camp Camper Registrar

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

If Evie owned her own factory, it would make: hoodies

Evie’s favorite quotation: “Eyes open, hearts loud.” – Anis Mojgani

The Brave Space Reads “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”

America is an old house. We can never declare the work over. Wind, flood, drought, and human upheavals batter a structure that is already fighting whatever flaws were left unattended in the original foundation. When you live in an old house, you may not want to go into the basement after a storm to see what the rains have wrought. Choose not to look, however, at your own peril. The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away. Whatever is lurking will fester whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction. Whatever you are wishing away will gnaw at you until you gather the courage to face what you would rather not see. 

We in the developed world are like homeowners who inherited a house on a piece of land that is beautiful on the outside, but whose soil is unstable loam and rock, heaving and contracting away for decades, centuries even. Many people may rightly say, “I had nothing to do with how this all started. I have nothing to do with the sins of the past. My ancestors never attacked indigenous people, never owned slaves.” And, yes. Not one of us was here when this house was built. Our immediate ancestors may have had nothing to do with it, but here we are, the current occupants of a property with stress cracks and bowed walls and fissures built into the foundation. We are the heirs to whatever is right or wrong with it. We did not erect the uneven pillars or joists, but they are ours to deal with now. And any further deterioration is, in fact, on our hands.

Unaddressed, the ruptures and diagonal cracks will not fix themselves. The toxins will not go away but, rather, will spread, leach, and mutate, as they already have. When people live in an old house, they come to adjust to the idiosyncrasies and outright daggers skulking in an old structure. They put buckets under a wet ceiling, prop up groaning floors, learn to step over that rotting wood tread in the staircase. The awkward becomes acceptable, and the unacceptable becomes merely inconvenient. Live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal. Exposed over the generations, we learn to believe that the incomprehensible is the way that life is supposed to be. 

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

We’re putting glue inside of foundational cracks, and throwing wallpaper on the walls where water has rotted the frame. Rather than getting to the root of the issue, we’ve allowed the narrative of a post racial society to play out and many have believed it to be true. The cracks and fissures have been in our house, it is not new that our basement is filled with water, nor did the ceiling just cave in. The killing of black and brown people by police officers didn’t start last year. The reality our that schools are predominantly one race or another has been there. The fact that we are still living with a generation of people who only went to school with people who looked like them due to Jim Crow is a reality. 

I recently finished Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. As I read through, there were many moments I journaled to process my emotions and sticky notes stuck to pages to mark stories I never want to forget. This book focuses on the ills of our society relating to race, or caste, as you will learn more about when you read. 

Images from
Images from

There is a line in the excerpt above that I want to highlight. When I was reading I stopped at this line, and I want to share some of the notes I made in my book {resources added for deeper reading}…

“Live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal.”

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

At the beginning of the century, we learned that 1 in 3 black boys and 1 in 6 Latino boys born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime. Compare that to 1 in 17 white with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal.

In Alabama, we have 2 school district borders that mark the starkest gaps in student poverty rates. They rank among the “The 50 Most Segregating School District Borders” in our country2live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal.

We have allowed color-blind ideology to keep us from honest conversations on racial disparities and have denied the legacy of historical practices in our society…live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal.

Black women are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. This increases to 4 to 5 times as likely for black women over 30.3live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal.

When citizens called for the removal of confederate statues in our parks and on public squares, Alabama passed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act to prevent local governments from removing statues that celebrate the wrong side of history…live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal.

Due to redlining, a city planning practice in the 40’s and 50’s, school systems in our country are still segregated. In 2010, it was reported that “schools are more segregated today than they were forty years ago, but this is mostly because the neighborhoods in which schools are located are so segregated. In 1970, the typical African American student attended a school in which 32% of the students were white. By 2010, this exposure had fallen to 29%”4live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal.

As you read, and I really hope you do, I encourage you to take moments to process what you’re reading and the emotions you’re experiencing. I have so many notes that were written with tear-brimmed eyes, because I was so overwhelmed with emotions at times. I read this book alone, but I would encourage you to read it along with someone else. Discuss what you’re reading and ask one another the hard questions. If those around you would rather not read a book, I would love to discuss and process with you.

It is all too easy to imagine that the Third Reich was a bizarre aberration,” wrote the philosopher David Livingstone Smith, who has studied cultures of dehumanization. “It is tempting to imagine that the Germans were (or are) a uniquely cruel and bloodthirsty people. But these diagnoses are dangerously wrong. What’s most disturbing about the Nazi phenomenon is not that the Nazis were madmen or monsters. It’s that they were ordinary human beings.”

It is also tempting to vilify a single despot at the sight of injustice when, in fact, it is the actions, or more commonly the inactions, of ordinary people that keep the mechanism of caste running, the people who shrug their shoulders at the latest police killing, the people who laugh off the coded put-downs of marginalized people shared at the dinner table and say nothing for fear of alienation of an otherwise beloved uncle. The people who are willing to pay higher property taxes for their own children’s schools but who balk at taxes to educate the children society devalues. Or the people who sit in silence as a marginalized person whether of color or a woman, is interrupted in a meeting, her ideas dismissed (though perhaps later adopted), for fear of losing caste, each of these keeping intact the whole system that holds everyone in its grip.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

What will it look like when more and more Americans refuse to live with injustice in their schools and communities, refuse to live with police brutality against black and brown men, refuse to live with the reality that black and brown men are seen as violent and uneducated? I wonder how much longer we will allow the atrocities and the murders to continue. How much longer will we allow our classrooms to be homogenous? How much longer will we not speak up?

We are not personally responsible for what people who look like us did centuries ago. But we are responsible for what good or ill we do to people alive with us today. We are, each of us, responsible for every decision we make that hurts or harms another human being. We are responsible for recognizing that what happened in previous generations at the hands of or to people who look like us set the stage for the world we now live in and that what has gone before us grants us advantages or burdens through no effort of fault of our own, gains or deficits that others who do not look like us often do not share.

We are responsible for our own ignorance or, with time and openhearted enlightenment, our own wisdom. We are responsible for ourselves and our own deeds or misdeeds in our time and in our own space and will be judged accordingly by succeeding generations.  

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

We are in need of one another more than we have been led to believe.

Caste: The Origins Of Our Discontents




4 “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”, Richard Rothstein

Additional Resources: – Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste” (with Bryan Stevenson) – Oprah’s Book Club: Caste: Isabel Wilkerson