Wheelock College

Reflections on Race Amity

Wiliam H. Smith

Since this is a space where I can share my personal feelings and beliefs on race amity, I offer this reflective process with an expression of faith and commitment "to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity."

William H. "Smitty" Smith, Ed.D.







January 5, 2011

It has been awhile since I last posted information under reflections. Well, it's not because I have been lounging and eating bonbons. Lounging no, eating bonbons no, but eating, well… yes. There have been two holidays that are eat-tastic, so yeah, I've had my share. Anyway, a little update on Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum. It is a call to the nation's children, youth, and adults in the civic, governmental, religious, educational, entertainment and business communities to come together to share, inspire, and engage in collective planning and action. While our nation's level of racial equality and access has made quantum leaps through its laws and general moral advocacy, we face a myriad of challenges as we begin the second decade of the twenty-first century. These challenges must be overcome if we are to achieve the true north of our moral compass as directed in our national motto, "E Pluribus Unum": of many, one.

As promised, here is more detail on the first National Race Amity Conference held in Washington, D. C. in 1921, which inspires these efforts. The principal organizers of the original conference were Washington socialite Agnes Parsons, whose great grandfather was Secretary of the Navy under George Washington, and Louis Gregory, a Treasury Department lawyer, whose father served in the first black Civil War regiment, the South Carolina First Volunteer Colored Regiment. The two, though from very different backgrounds, worked together as co-religionists of the Baha'i Faith and were advised and supported by Nebraska Senator Moses Clapp. They gathered others, mostly courageous women, to assist with the conference preparations. On May 19, 1921, the National Race Amity Convention assembled in Washington, D.C. at the First Congregational Church, which was known for its opposition to racial prejudice. Over 2,000 diverse participants gathered for the opening day, a marked contrast for the city in the wake of widespread racist rioting and lynching in the Red Summer of 1919. The mission of the conference adorned the front page of the event program:

The great work we have to do and for which this conference is called is the establishment of amity between the white and colored people of our land. When we have put our own house in order, then we may be trusted to carry the message of universal peace to all mankind.

September 1, 2010

Below is the executive summary for Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum. This initiative includes the Boston Race Amity Celebration on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, establishing a National Race Amity Day through a Joint Resolution of Congress and/or Presidential Proclamation, and organizing a National Race Amity Conference to be held in Boston, Massachusetts June 9-12, 2011. Details are below.

Executive Overview
RACE AMITY 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum

The National Center for Race Amity (NCRA) envisions three interrelated initiatives that will support Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum. The first initiative is organization of the Boston Race Amity Celebration on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, June 12, 2011. The second initiative is to have the second Sunday in June permanently established as National Race Amity Day through a Joint Resolution of Congress and/or Presidential Proclamation. The third initiative of Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum is organizing a National Race Amity Conference to be held in Boston, Massachusetts on June 9-12, 2011. While connected by the moral theme of racial unity each of the initiatives are independent actions and will be successful in and of their own accomplishment. This overall vision is inspired by the first American Race Amity Convention held in Washington, D.C. in 1921. That daring, groundbreaking event was remarkable in both its moral clarity and the unlikely collaboration of its principals and supporters in a nation that was experiencing the aftershocks of the Red Summer of 1919. During that summer thousands of Americans were injured and killed in an outbreak of violence perpetrated by white mobs against black citizens in cities across the nation. While our nation's level of racial justice has made quantum leaps since 1921 through its laws and general moral advocacy toward equity and access, we face a myriad of challenges in the twenty-first century. These challenges must be overcome in pursuit of the true north of our collective moral compass as directed in our national motto, "E Pluribus Unum." Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum is a call to the nation's youth and adults in civic, governmental, religious, educational, entertainment and business communities to come together to share, inspire, and engage in planning and action toward achieving "E Pluribus Unum."

The Boston Race Amity and Unity Celebration on the Rose Kennedy Greenway on June 12, 2011 will begin with a Race Amity Sunday morning interfaith service at Old South Church. This spiritual home to John Adams and Phyllis Wheatley is a fitting place to start the day. At noon families and individuals from Boston and the metro area will gather on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in celebration of National Race Amity Day. The celebration will include musical performances, art exhibits, diverse culinary fare, amity games, and brief addresses by renowned individuals who are allies to race amity. In addition to the fun and joy of enriching entertainment and culinary experiences, the Greenway event will have a singular, simple objective. That objective will encourage attendees to seek out a person of a racial or ethnic background different from their own and commit to some form of future interaction; by telephone, email, text messaging, a shared coffee or lunch, home visit or other personal rendezvous within two weeks of the Race Amity Celebration on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. This request will be widely publicized before and during the Celebration and asked of men, women, and children. Participants will be asked to use the new Race Amity 2011 website being to register their shared action.

The National Race Amity Conference will convene on Thursday evening, June 9. The conference will include two days of workshops, forums, and seminars along with arts and cultural events featuring leaders and activists engaged in promoting cross-racial and cross-cultural amity. The conference will be organized across ten "Amity Sectors" in arts, business, community service, education, entertainment, government agencies, information media, law, spirituality, and sports. A tentative outline of the proceedings at the National Race Amity Conference can be found on our homepage. The conference will culminate in the observation of the National Race Amity Day Celebration. Conference participants from across America will be invited to gather with the richly diverse peoples of Boston and its metro area for a hallmark cross-cultural experience on the Rose Kennedy Greenway on the final day of the conference, June 12.

National Race Amity Day will be the result of the National Center for Race Amity and its allies calling on the U.S. Congress for a resolution/proclamation to establish the second Sunday in June of each year as a time for Americans to reflect and affirm the dignity of the diverse racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds of the human mosaic that constitutes the United States of America. Boston's inaugural celebration for this proposed Congressional Resolution/Presidential Proclamation on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The "Boston Race Amity Unity Celebration" will be the culminating event of the Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum initiative. Conference participants from cities across America will be invited to gather with the richly diverse peoples of Boston and its metro area for a hallmark cross-cultural experience.

The National Center for Race Amity is reaching out for co-founding allies and financial underwriters for the aforementioned initiatives. Please contact William H. "Smitty" Smith, Ed.D. for more information by email at wsmith@wheelock.edu or by telephone at 617-879-2024.

August 16, 2010

To move an idea like a national event to bring focus to race amity to reality is difficult. However, engaging others who are likeminded in principle is powerfully catalytic. The blessing of two long-time co-workers for amity and equity proved just the needed "next" step for moving Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum forward. My dear brother Darnell Williams was onboard before I could finish my presentation as we lunched over tasty but unhealthy oversized sub sandwiches under a giant fan blowing warm air in a Dudley Square "greasy spoon" in Roxbury. (Darnell likes being where the people are.) He literally started to generate key ideas to shape a successful outcome for the undertaking and pledged human and financial support to the undertaking. Scanning my increasingly unreliable memory (my children say, "Dad, a mind is a terrible thing to lose"), I thought of others who had shown a committed passion to race amity work. Immediate to mind came Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor, senior minister of Boston's historic Old South Church (church home to the likes of John Adams and Phillis Wheatley) with whom I worked several years back in developing the "Neighborhood Dialogues on Race: A Talk Worth Having" as part of the visit of the famous liberation schooner Amistad in its visit to Boston Harbor. Declaring that her "plate is overflowing" as she works on her pastoral responsibilities, she said Old South Church could be counted on as a co-founding sponsor of the effort and to assist with human and material resources for the undertaking. This gave way to the pursuit of coalition building to gather seven to ten co-founding sponsors to provide the basic resources to launch Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum. After gaining the enthusiastic support of Darnell and Nancy, it occurred to me that two of the key architects of the 1921 National Race Amity Conference were a man of African descent and a woman of European descent, from totally different backgrounds who united around a principle idea, the unity of the human family. Sort of a little déjà vu.

July 9, 2010

Welcome to Reflections on Race Amity!

Since this a space where I can share my personal feelings and beliefs on race amity, I will begin this reflective process with an expression of faith and commitment "to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity" as it is the primary motivatation of my efforts at the National Center for Race Amity.

Nearly nine decades ago, in 1921, the first National Race Amity Convention was organized in Washington, D.C. The event followed by two years the 1919 "red summer" of bloodshed from racial violence in our nation's capitol and other cities. Two individuals were at the center of organizing the unique initiative to bridge the racial divide. The protagonists were an unusual paring. The first principal was a white Washington, D.C. socialite and daughter of a family that included generals and admirals in every generation going back to the Revolutionary War. Her collaborating ally was a Treasury Department lawyer who was the son of a South Carolina African American Civil War militiaman who fought guerilla fashion for the Union Army in his home state. This unusual pair, despite the gap in their origins and standing, organized a conference that attracted nearly two thousand attendees and the support of high standing officials, including Senator Moses Clapp of Nebraska. There is much more to this story, and it will be told in due course. For now though, that act of courage and the commitment of the two key contributors to hoist the banner of race amity prompts me and several allies to begin organizing a commemorative event for June 2011, a National Race Amity Conference to be held in Boston, Massachusetts. It will mark the 90th year of that historic convocation. The June 2011commemorative event will be in the spirit of "the other tradition." The "other tradition", coined by one of my mentors, Dr. Richard W. Thomas, is the oft overlooked pattern in history of close cross cultural collaboration which helps us find our way through the swamp of racism to the firm ground of equity, amity, and unity. The "other tradition" will help us organize an event that will continue to move us on the path toward race amity. Please stay connected for weekly developments on this undertaking. And, if you have an idea, want to participate, or support it financially or otherwise, please contact theot@wheelock.edu.

With warmest greetings,

William H. "Smitty" Smith, Ed. D.
Executive Director, National Center for Race Amity &
Special Assistant to the President, Wheelock College

Resources for Race Amity Workers

National Center for Race Amity
200 The Riverway, Boston, Massachusetts 02215 | 617.879.2025
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