Beloved Community Guide Introduction
What is a beloved community?
The term “Beloved Community” was popularized by Martin Luther King Jr. It describes a society based on justice, equality and love for all people. According to the King Center:
“Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. … Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”
How do we find our path toward King’s vision?
This is a question that we will ask ourselves throughout this journey. When the Beloved Community Task Force first convened to begin the conversations that ultimately led to this document, we started with this question: How does our beloved Star Island community fall short of King’s vision? And perhaps more importantly, what could we do about it?
These are not easy questions. The decisions we eventually made encompassed a variety of approaches and interpretations regarding both the need for change on Star Island and what to do about it. Our goal then was twofold. First, we sought to identify areas of broad agreement and to outline clear action related to those goals. But in other areas where there appeared to be a wider range of opinions, we sought to define the parameters of continued discussions that – we hope – might lead to greater clarity down the road.
How to use this document
This document is intended to be a resource for conference leaders – that is, anyone who is responsible for the programming, planning or registration of any conference that takes place on Star Island. It will also be made available to the Star Island community more broadly, but the specific intention of this document is to help conference leaders incorporate the goals of anti-racism and inclusivity into specific aspects of the conference.
This guidebook is organized around the annual planning process of each conference. We recognize that each conference does things slightly differently, and so you may need to skip around between sections to better match your conference’s planning schedule.
The first section focuses on marketing and outreach to be used as a starting point for your annual planning, whether you start as soon as you leave the island the previous year or wait until the fall or winter. The second section focuses on programming to help you incorporate anti-racist elements into your planning around workshops, speakers, youth program, social hour and chapel services. The third section is on conference registration and provides guidance on communication with conferees in preparation for your time on Star.
The guidance provided in these chapters varies from general advice that seeks to set a helpful mindset to detailed examples (found in the appendix) of messaging that conference leaders can use. How conference leaders choose to apply the guidance depends on where they are in their journey in adopting an inclusive mindset, as well as where their conferees are in that journey as well.
Our goals and guiding principles
There are three broad and overlapping goals to this guidebook. The first explicitly addresses racism and white supremacy. Our goal is to make Star Island conferences more welcoming to people of color. Second, in keeping with King’s notion of a Beloved Community and Ibram X Kendi’s notion of anti-racism work, we want to help the Island become more welcoming of all people – all ages, abilities, genders, religions and sexual orientations. Third, and most broad, we want to work towards helping the Island become more welcoming to all people who come to the island for the first time no matter his/her/their race, gender or age. While these goals overlap, they are also distinct, and this guidebook reflects that dynamic.
This guidebook is a product of many hands and minds as well as months of conversation and debate.Through this experience, the Beloved Community Task Force identified six core principles that guided our work as we drafted the sections of this guidebook and reached out to potential contributors. They are as follows:
- This work is necessary and important. And now is the time to do it. In fact, some say it is overdue. 2021 is a crucial year in the long history of Star Island. Not only have we faced a pandemic that prompted the shutdown of the 2020 season, but we have also witnessed racial violence and police brutality, emergent nativism and resurgence of white supremacy. We have also just seen, in 2020, the uprising of the largest social movement in American history – a multi-racial, multi-generational movement of Americans standing together to support Black Lives Matter.
- This project is an effort to enrich our community and invest in its future. We want to keep the Star Island tradition alive by reproducing the values we stand for and taking actions that reflect a deliberate and planned effort to make diversity a key value of the Star Island community. By so doing, we hope to make Star Island a more enjoyable place that offers a richer and more complete experience for new people and for families that have visited for decades. We recognize that we need to do work to make sure our values are reflected in our actions and the way we live. We invest now to ensure Star Island is as vibrant and relevant in 2070 as it was in 1970.
- We can’t shy away from certain truths, no matter how harsh or persistent. Deeply woven into the fabric of our beloved island are symbols and legacies that affirm and support racism, white supremacy, violence, and oppression.There is a core truth that we must always keep in our minds: Many of the rituals and traditions on Star Island provide a sense of belonging to many people, but also these same traditions can convey a sense of otherness. We feel that by keeping tradition alive – participatory and changing – there is a way to celebrate tradition without excluding others.
- This project is not without weaknesses and shortcomings. And we are just beginning to understand them.
This project is part of a broader effort to move Star Island into an anti-racist and more inclusive future. The Beloved Community Task Force has also recommended that Star Island hire a professional consultant to perform an institution-wide audit. We envision a coupled process – top down, bottom up – drawing from the formidable professional strength and guidance of subject matter experts, but also recognizing that anti-racism, pro-inclusion work is the responsibility of the people who already make up this community. We are all in the driver’s seat, which requires a willingness to subject ourselves to the process as part of our own development to become a better community. The work starts now.
We recognize that in doing this project we are reproducing some challenging dynamics of racism. We have had lengthy discussions about the implication of asking the contributors, some of whom were people of color, to volunteer their time to write sections of the report – to take on the extra work or even burden to become educators to mostly white people. We aren’t sure this is the right thing to do. But the alternatives seemed to impose more separation. We also recognize that everyone in this group is investing in something, which we hope will benefit all.
- This guidebook will be produced following an iterative process. This guidebook is crowd sourced, building on the expertise and skills of our community, orienting ourselves through our principles and recognizing when we may need to course correct.
- We are not looking for a finish line. There is no point at which we can say we have arrived at becoming the perfect Beloved Community we envision. It is a journey, a life-long commitment. Most important, it is the process of acknowledging to ourselves that we must do better. We will not always agree or know what path is right or wrong. But we can agree to commit ourselves to learning, evolving, growing in ways that support anti-racist awareness and development. We are deciding to engage in discourse – but we also realize that we can not only engage in discourse. We must also commit ourselves to concrete action.
It is possible this is the beginning of a 100-year project, perhaps even longer. We are excited to be starting it here, now, with you all.
-The Star Island Beloved Community Task Force
Deborah Weiner Soule