Race & Social Justice Coalition

Reading, learning, and discussing what we don’t know. 

Acting to change what we discover.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” — Desmond Tutu

Thomas Merton’s Call for Racial Justice

In the midst of the intense struggle for civil rights, Thomas Merton insisted that Christians had a moral duty to address racism—on a personal and systemic level. His words were prophetic at the time and continue to be relevant to this day.

From Seeds of Destruction -1965

The race question cannot be settled without a profound change of heart, a real shake-up and deep reaching metanoia [Greek for repentance or change of mind] on the part of White America. It is not just [a] question of a little more good will and generosity: it is a question of waking up to crying injustices and deep-seated problems which are ingrained in the present setup and which, instead of getting better, are going to get worse.

In later writings, Merton elaborates on the pernicious evil of systems of oppression and how we must combat them through the use of faith, hope, and love.

When a system can, without resort to overt force, compel people to live in conditions of abjection, helplessness, wretchedness . . . it is plainly violent. To make people live on a subhuman level against their will, to constrain them in such a way that they have no hope of escaping their condition, is an unjust exercise of force. Those who in some way or other concur in the oppression—and perhaps profit by it—are exercising violence even though they may be preaching pacifism. And their supposedly peaceful laws, which maintain this spurious kind of order, are in fact instruments of violence and oppression.

The Race and Social Justice Coalition is a diverse and committed group of faithful people who originally formed following an Adult Education book study.  The Coalition is now comprised of a core of approximately 20 individuals meeting virtually each week from locales ranging from CT, NYC, MA, ME, and NH. They dare to imagine a world free of racial oppression, poverty, educational inequality, and other forms of social injustice. By convening conversations, building partnerships, and engaging in direct action, it aims to help make that world a reality and ensure justice for all.

Weekly meetings

The group meets throughout the year to discuss current events, upcoming actions or advocacy, or books and media chosen for study. All regularly scheduled meetings take place via Zoom on Wednesdays from 7-8:30pm.  Contact the group for a link to the meeting. Newcomers are always welcome!

Protests and demonstrations

Several coalition members attended a Black Lives Matter protest and march in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.

The group’s statement following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers:

The Race & Social Justice Coalition at St. Paul’s condemns the violent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless people of color by those who are supposed to protect them, a result of centuries of systemic racism in our country. We offer healing prayer for their families. We offer healing prayer for all. We commit to standing up and showing up as we continue to work for justice. We call for police reform and accountability. BLACK LIVES MATTER

Local partnerships

CT-based members actively participate with Norwalk ACTS Members from CT, NYC, ME, and NH have partnered with St. Paul’s in providing leadership for its 2021 and 2022 Lenten Study programs and helped launch several Sacred Ground Circles for the parish.

Feeding the hungry

Members deliver groceries to the homebound, including the sick, the elderly, and parents who cannot leave their children, by partnering with Person-to-Person. Members also volunteer at P2P’s food pantry in South Norwalk.

Voter registration

Members of the coalition effectively helped national efforts to  “get out the vote” in the 2020 and 2022 elections. Those efforts continue with voter registration and support for the 2024 election cycle.

Community education

The coalition has read nearly three dozen books and watched several films and documentaries over the course of its weekly discussion group. For a list of books, documentaries, films, and other media discussed by the group, click here.

Guest speakers

In the course of its regular group meetings, the group has hosted multiple local experts and community advocates, including Jennifer Baharona of Norwalk ACTS, Bishop John Selders of Moral Majority CT, Denique Weidema-Lewis of Positive Directions, Margaret Suib of Fair Housing Norwalk, the Executive Director of Family Re-Entry, and Stephen Healey, Provost of the University of Bridgeport and others. For a complete list of guests, click here.

Past events

July 2023 Visit to the Ruby & Calvin Fletcher African American Museum

As part of their commitment to continuous learning about issues of race and justice, some members  visited the first African American Museum in Stratford, Connecticut, founded by Jeffery Fletcher with artifacts collected by his mother, Ruby Fletcher. Read more about the experience HERE. 

March 2020: True Justice screening

The coalition sponsored a free screening of the documentary True Justice, which chronicles the work of Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. The event, held in partnership with Norwalk ACTS, included a facilitated discussion following the screening.

January 2019: Let Justice Roll

Let Justice Roll, held in honor of MLK Day, was an evening concert and story-telling event at St. Paul’s featuring pianist, singer, and composer Mark Miller. The night included readings from texts the coalition had discussed, personal stories from the group’s members, and music led by the St. Paul’s choirs, directed by Mark Miller himself.