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Racial Justice Teach-In, Part 1

At More Light we have been in an ongoing journey to uncover our own entanglement with the dominant norms of whiteness and the ways in which those norms infiltrate every facet of our lives. We invite you to join us – to breathe with us, and engage in the difficult work of uncovering systems of power, domination, and oppression at work within us all, so we may work together for our collective liberation.

This Teach-In Series equips folks with the tools to begin doing just that. In our three-part series, we address the ways in which systemic racism and white supremacy function, how to address internalized dominance and white fragility, and how to take action in our congregations and communities to decenter whiteness and integrate racial justice tactics in our ministries.

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Series Trainer: Jessica Vazquez Torres (she/her/hers)

We are delighted to have Jessica Vazquez Torres as our series trainer throughout this conversation. Jessica is an Organizer/Trainer with Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training.A native of Puerto Rico, Jessica identifies as a “1.5 generation Queer ESL Latina of Puerto Rican descent.” From 1999 until the Spring of 2006 Jessica worked in the Office of [Racial] Reconciliation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indianapolis, IN. From 2006 to 2008 she worked as National Religious Outreach Coordinator with Interfaith Worker Justice, and from 2008 to 2010 as Director of Master Level Recruitment and Admissions at McCormick Theological Seminary (both in Chicago, IL). Currently, Jessica is working on a Masters of Theological Studies at the Chandler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. When not studying she works as a consultant and core/organizer trainer for Crossroads. Rev. Vazquez Torres holds a BA in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL and a Masters of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN.

Part 1 will:

  • Define racism and white supremacy
  • Discuss the ways in which white supremacy shows up in our everyday contexts, and distinguish white supremacy from projected notions of racism
  • Connect the ways in which race and gender are linked, and why it is essential that conversations about gender are also conversations about racism.

Co-Trainer: Alex Patchin McNeill (he/him/his)

Alex Patchin McNeill has served as the Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians since 2013. During his tenure at More Light, he has equipped congregations to live into policy change for inclusion of LGBTQ people and has successfully enacted policies for marriage equality in the Presbyterian Church, USA. Under his leadership, More Light now serves as a capacity-building organization, equipping congregations to work intersectionally on justice issues. As a trained professional coach through the International Coaching Federation, Alex brings a coaching approach to his work with church leaders and congregations seeking to follow God’s call to widen their welcome, increase church vitality, or develop and implement new programs. In addition, he coaches leaders taking a leap of faith to launch a new project, stepping into a leadership role, or discerning a new calling.

As an openly transgender man with a wealth of experience both professionally and personally, he is a sought-after trainer and facilitator of workshops on gender identity and sexual orientation. He has over a decade of experience training hundreds of community leaders, and has played key roles organizing faith communities for marriage equality in Maryland and legislation to promote LGBTQ rights. Alex is a Candidate for Ordination in the Presbyterian Church, USA, and holds a Master’s of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. He currently lives in Ashville, NC.

Co-trainer: Rev. Shanea D. Leonard (they/them)

Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, B.A., M.Div. is a pastor, teacher, consultant, community activist, and justice warrior. Shanea has been an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for over twelve years. A native of Philadelphia, she received her B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and M.Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. She has been serving communities and congregations in various capacities for over fifteen years. Pastor Leonard has done extensive work with urban areas to eradicate systemic oppression in the areas of race, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic despair. She has spent time doing international outreach in Africa, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, she is also the moderator of the Pastor’s Council for the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a global network of faith leaders & communities with an affirming theology. Shanea believes that God has given her a burden for people whom others have disregarded, oppressed, forgotten, or simply don’t even see.

A modern-day abolitionist, Shanea is the founder & former pastor of JUDAH Fellowship, Western Pennsylvania region’s only predominantly Black affirming faith community. Rev. Leonard is also the founder of the Pittsburgh Clergy Consortium, the city’s inter-faith cohort of faith leaders with an affirming theology towards advocacy for the LGBTQIA community. Shanea has served other organizations as: past board chair of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, member of the Pennsylvania State ACLU Board of Directors, and chair of Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto’s LGBTQIA Advisory Council, as well as other boards around Western PA. Pastor Leonard is an often-quoted media contributor and an active, outspoken faith voice for justice.

Shanea is also the founding director of Diversity Consulting, an organization that focuses on the education and coaching of individuals and groups around intersectional advocacy and issue- based leadership in the areas of faith, race, gender, and sexual orientation. She currently carries out her justice mandate as the National Associate for Gender & Racial Justice for the Presbyterian Church (USA). Rev. Leonard has received numerous awards including the recent 2018 Coro Pittsburgh Martin Luther King Jr, Leadership Award and the 2018 YWCA of Pittsburgh Racial Justice Leadership Award in the category of Faith. She resides in Louisville, Kentucky but travels extensively for the cause of liberation of marginalized people. She lives her life by the mantra of Assata Shakur which sates, “…it is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win…we have nothing to lose but our chains!”

Co-Trainer: David Barnhart (he/him/his)

David Barnhart is an award winning producer, director and filmmaker and is committed to Story as a means to facilitate community engagement. His most recent projects, “Kepulihan: When the Waters Recede” (a film 10 years in the making), “Trigger: The Ripple Effects of Gun Violence” (a 7-year project) and “Locked in a Box: Immigration Detention” have received awards and been screened at festivals across the country. Trigger, which examines the ripple effect that one shooting has on an individual, family, community and society, had the distinguished honor of being selected for the Martin Luther King Jr. D.R.E.A.M Film Series. His most recent doc short, ” To Breathe Free,” focuses on the 5-year journey of a Syrian refugee family fleeing the war in Homs to the refugee camps in Jordan and starting a new life in Washington, D.C   He is currently in production on a follow up to Trigger that looks at how different individuals are responding to the epidemic of gun violence in their own communities, and a feature documentary focused on the ongoing Water Crisis in Flint. Barnhart is the proud and tired father of twins. He and his wife Elsie live in Atlanta, GA

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