Building Black RC in Arkansas

For a few years now I have been leading two projects for black folk in our Community. The first one is my black women’s support group, which developed gradually as I made many false starts before finally getting it going. I kept trying because I needed the group for my own re-emergence.

I live in northwest Arkansas (USA). We are a university town with lots of diversity on campus and the surrounding area, and many white folk who are liberal thinkers, but the town has not figured out how to include its black citizens in its day to day functioning. As a result, the black population is somewhat isolated.

I started by inviting a black woman I had met on campus to meet with me for lunch once a month, and we gradually increased to three of us. We were all three black women who work professionally as counselors. We were not able to figure out how to grow, so we eventually stagnated.

I was determined not to give up though, and I took some time off to counsel and think about it some more. I also continued to attend the Black Liberation and Community Development (BLCD) Workshop each year. The major struggle I’ve had in building black RC has been seeing myself as small and, of course, the internalized message that I am not smart enough or don’t know enough. At BLCD my thinking has been taken seriously, and I have had a chance to see what it feels like to be respected for having a good mind.

BLCD has been a place for me to get a break from white RC, to hang out with black folk, to feed my spirit, to work on the internalized racism that has made me feel not at home anywhere, no matter whether the people were white or black. There has been growth in all these areas for me. The major shift has been in the area of respecting my own mind. It took me some time to realize that at home I was consistently conceding to the thoughts of white leaders in our community. Once I figured out that white middle-class patterns force people into rigidly acting like they know things they don’t actually know, I felt liberated. I have patterns that force me to act like I don’t know the things I actually know! I have had to discharge a lot on trusting my mind when the feelings are heading me in the opposite direction, and that has allowed me to reach out to black folk and think better about them once they have come into RC.

My next step in trying to start a black women’s support group was to invite my cousin to start a support group with me. We began again with three black women. This group has survived for three years now, and the size fluctuates according to who can come on any given month. A record has been seventeen women. Sometimes we are as few as four. I continue to feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and am doing a good job with it in spite of that distress.

Whenever a new woman joins our group, I have the current members introduce themselves and tell what brought them to the group and why they stayed. This is good for me to hear as well, because my patterns make it hard for me to know that the group is significant. I am always moved by the reasons people give for staying in the group. Occasionally people drift away, too. I haven’t yet figured out what that is about and how to fix it. I have had some struggles about which black women are actually appropriate for the group and who to go after.

Some success with the black women’s group has encouraged me. As a result I have started a black people’s fundamentals class. This class has reinforced my view of myself as a strong leader. Three people who have been in other classes I have taught and in my support group have done a great job of supporting my leadership and of co-leading. The class consists of seven people, five of whom are young adults and two of whom are men. We completed our first sixteen weeks, and everyone wanted to continue as an ongoing class. We are now in our third week as an ongoing class, and I am encouraging a young adult to co-teach with me. We are experimenting right now with alternating between my teaching one week and her teaching the next. I am holding off on bringing the black people’s class into the rest of the Community.

In the other ongoing class that I teach there are two black people and five white people. I required that every white person in the class attend the whites-eliminating- racism monthly support group.

Our Community is growing, not only in numbers but in the quality of our relationships and our counseling.

Dorothy Marcy
Area Reference Person for Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
Springdale, Arkansas, USA 

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00