Members of the Summit Interfaith Council came together for a day-long retreat at Chatham’s Quaker Meeting House in order to discuss the issues of racism and white privilege in our community. With guidance from facilitators Robin Parker and Pamela Smith Chambers of Beyond Diversity, Summit’s religious leaders explored the ways in which racial backgrounds impact on working relationships within the community. It is the hope of the Council to use the skills and insights developed during this day together to encourage better communication and partnership among the diverse elements of Summit.
Rev. Denison Harrield, Jr., president of the Summit Interfaith Council, left the retreat encouraged and invigorated. He said that as much as the election of President Barack Obama was historical, it has also exposed the fact that we are not living in a post-racial society and unfortunately, racism is still alive. Whether it is seen as black rage or white privilege, it is a destructive force in communities. He was encouraged that this retreat was very powerful in helping us to understand the need to talk about race in an honest and open way. The late Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. said, “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.” Dr. Cornel West, the author of the book, “Race Matters,” said, “A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue.” This occurred at our retreat and we will use these skills and insights to “brighten the corner where we are” as we seek the welfare of the city.
The Summit Interfaith Council is comprised of religious leaders from Summit’s houses of worship and religious organizations. Its mission, based on a passage from the book of Jeremiah, is to “seek the welfare of the city.” For further information, contact outgoing president, Rev. Denison Harrield, Jr. (908-277-0574) of Wallace Chapel AME Zion Church or incoming president, Rabbi Avi Friedman (908-273-8130) of the Summit Jewish Community Center.