Festival Center / Church of the Saviour, Washington, D.C.
Harold Vines moved to Washington, D.C., after many painfully racist encounters as an African American man. These hurts turned him off relationships with white people. But in the last few years, he’s been able to build those relationships, and Damascus Road training has helped by giving him a new way to have conversations about race. Harold says that Damascus Road training recognizes that talking about race is difficult, often generating painful feelings. He found the training extremely helpful for working through these difficult conversations.
He was a founding member of the Damascus Road team of the Festival Center, affiliated with the Church of the Saviour. This team participated in the Damascus Road Antiracism Process and worked to change their institution’s policies and culture.
After a number of years, the team’s efforts dwindled, but Harold’s passion remained. He continues to find ways to encourage conversations and action around race within the Church of the Saviour community, including a regular lunchtime group and within the weekly spiritual support group that he leads. Harold says the Damascus Road process has been extremely helpful for working through situations and conversations made more difficult by racial differences.
Nearly ten years after her first antiracism training, Dawn Longenecker started working for the Discipleship Year program based at the Festival Center. The Festival Center, as part of its commitment to antiracism encouraged by Harold’s Damascus Road team, required that every staff person attend a Damascus Road Antiracism Analysis Training. At the DR training, Dawn’s foundation in antiracism was strengthened and she has since made sure that all of the young adults participating in the Discipleship Year program attend a DR training. She joins them each year and remains thoroughly impressed with the approach that Damascus Road takes, and wouldn’t want to take her young adult participants to a training of lesser quality.
With colleagues on the journey with her and DR training as their common analysis, Dawn became convinced that developing relationships with people of other racial identities was vital for her continued transformation as a white woman. So, she joined a multiracial group through her church, led by Harold. Though only about half of the members have participated in Damascus Road, the DR training has shaped the group’s common analysis and the ways they think about power dynamics within the group.
“This has been powerful for me,” Dawn says. “I’ve gotten to know many people personally, and feel like I can much more easily relate to them in deep and real ways, beyond the barriers of race and class. We work to have mutually liberating relationships, calling each other on the stuff that gets in the way for any of us to continue to build community together. It’s hard often, but very rewarding.”
In 2012, Dawn encouraged other Church of the Savior members to attend the DR training along with the Discipleship Year participants, and a total of 21 people attended. Many of them, including Dawn and Harold, have continued meeting together to reinvigorate the antiracism commitment and work of the Festival Center and Church of the Savior.
In October 2013, their antiracist community came together with Roots of Justice trainers for a Damascus Road Organizing Training, where they deepened their relationships and commitment to each other while developing a vision, goals and strategies for their continuing work.