June 15, 2022
At the close of our 42nd Annual Conference, held online with the generous support of Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion, Friends Association for Higher Education sends our greetings and warm best wishes to Friends throughout the world.
Focused on our theme, “Quakers and Racial Justice,” we were inspired by our plenary speaker, Dr. Amanda Kemp, as well as many workshops and presentations. These ranged from close analysis of “Hamilton the Musical and the 1619 Project,” to “Reflections on Incorporating Diverse and Anti-Colonial Material in Natural Science Classrooms,” to exploring ways of “Dismantling Raci(al/st) Ideology,” and to promoting “Town and Gown” community conversations about race. Our worship and other opportunities for interaction enhanced our understanding of the Friends Equality Testimony and encouraged us to support our fellow faculty, staff and student activists striving for beloved community.
In her moving, multi-media plenary, Amanda Kemp shared with us the deep personal stresses accompanying her racial justice activism. After police killed Michael Brown in 2014, the cumulative impact of ever-increasing numbers of sacrificed Black lives, along with the wearing responsibilities of participating in visible protests and the daily interpreting of events for Whites often thoughtlessly invading her personal space, opened Amanda to the pressing need for self-compassion. Since 2020, she has found relief from relentless discourse “where there is no liberation” by accepting the unconditional love around her, in particular through her communion with trees. By listening to the trees, surrounding us everywhere, we can “feed the core” of our being, experience corresponding joy, and nourish the outward expression of our well-being; a practice well-understood and practiced by indigenous peoples throughout the world.
Friends’ paper presentations and workshops provided scholarly explorations and personal reflections on racial issues and dynamics ranging from Quaker slaveholding, to daunting modern urban segregation, to the need to challenge inequalities on our Quaker campuses. While expanding the awareness and knowledge of the sessions’ participants , the impact on the presenters of their own work was apparent. It’s clear that our thoughtful scholarship changes our lives, often leading to meaningful activism.
This year’s Presidents’ Panel, hosted by Earlham President Anne Houtman, featured a new twist, including three Quaker women presidents from non-quaker Colleges, along with Malone University’s incoming president, Greg Miller. They were Sarah Bolton from the College of Wooster (soon moving to Whitman College), Sarah Manglesdorf from the University of Rochester and Marlene Tromp from Boise State University. The challenges of leadership, guided by Quaker values, during these financially and politically challenging times, were thoughtfully explored.
Finally, during our annual business meeting we accepted the invitation from Haverford College’s President Wendy Raymond, pandemic allowing, to gather in person in June 2023. Please join us in the continuation of this good work.
As we depart from our gathering, we stand ready to share with Friends and our colleagues in higher education a renewed sense that we must all further commit to seeking racial justice within and outside of our colleges. To this end, the vitality of our Quaker colleges and study centers remains a central concern of FAHE.
With deep appreciation for our FAHE community,
Stephen Potthoff and Donn Weinholtz, Co-Clerks
Friends Association for Higher Education
Epistle – June 15, 2022