During my COVID-19 year at home I became part of a faith-based community examining racial justice. We all were interested in learning, especially since the murder of George Floyd had occurred just months earlier. Because of COVID our meetings were socially distanced via Zoom. The meetings were based on a series of modules designed by Just Faith Ministries (see www.justfaith.org). However, each meeting was tailored to our needs and desires, i.e., they became “ours.” Each module consisted of 10 weekly two-hour sessions. Participants could join in one, two or all three modules. Most of us met for at least two modules, many such as me participated in all three. The weekly meetings involved prayer and discussion of materials designed to teach/review historical racial issues both secular and religious. We based our discussion on books we read (three per module), documentaries we watched, recorded speeches and songs we listened to, and so on. And just as important, we based our discussions on what we learned from each other.

What evolved from these meetings and discussions has been inspiring and motivational for me. One theme coming from them was how much I didn’t know. I thought I was well educated and knew a lot, but I found myself saying “I didn’t know that” — and I wasn’t the only one saying it. From seminaries denying entry to Blacks to the governmental policy denying home mortgages to Blacks there were plenty of things I didn’t know. The more we learned the more motivated we became to share our educational growth within our parish and broader community. This was a common reaction. Many of us became motivated to act in specific areas — eliminating the death penalty, ending cash bail, campaigning for expungements, etc. We support each other in those areas that we individually feel deeply motivated to pursue.

I also became convinced that the problem of racial justice and equality has no solution; it requires a transformation of the heart and the spirit. I have come to appreciate and understand the lines from Langston Hughes’ “Let America be America Again”:

“The land that never has been yet—

And yet must be — ”

It is like God’s kingdom — the one we pray for at every Mass — the kingdom that is not yet and yet must be. Both require me to work continually toward making them a reality.

This letter is part of my commitment to share what I have learned and experienced and to encourage you to participate in such a program if you can do so. However, do so realizing that your experience will be different from mine and also that you may not be the same person at the end as at the beginning.

Veomett, a retired professor of biology who taught at the University of Nebraska, is a member of St. Ignatius Parish in Southeast Portland.