Testimonial of Natalie Shiras
When I moved to Southern California I carried the teachings and trainings and heart of BRIDGE with me. I live now at a retirement community called Pilgrim Place, made up of mostly white church pastors and missionaries. We have partnered with the Pomona Valley branch of NAACP to develop living room dialogues on race for the last year. About 50 white people and 30 African American people have participated in these monthly dialogues. We have come a long way to deepen trust and understanding by sharing stories and experiences about race. Friendships have developed and our communities now worship together at each other’s churches and break bread at each other’s homes. Helping to co-train with an African-American male trainer the six white facilitators and six African-American facilitators to lead the small groups was only possible because of the superb training I received from Gwendolyn and BRIDGE. Gwendolyn’s healing and supportive approach to accept everyone where each is gave me the strength to give room for each person’s particular capacity to look honestly and compassionately into beliefs and prejudices and begin to change.
I also lead the Diversity Study Group at Pilgrim Place where we read current books on race such as Dr. Joy DeGruy’s Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and do deep exercises to address our racism as white people. These studies have led to workshops, trainings and a commitment to reparations, supporting local Black entrepreneurs and organizations. It has led to institutional support for racial diversity and active recruiting for more residents of color at Pilgrim Place. This diversity study group was inspired by my involvement with three BRIDGE classes of Real Talk on Race. I am forever grateful for the tough love that our teacher, Gwendolyn, showed us, supporting, encouraging and never letting us deny our complicity with racism.
Multicultural BRIDGE and Gwendolyn hold a deep place in my heart for the education, the training, the mentoring and the friendship that continue to spread out and influence the work of racial healing in the United States.
With deep love and appreciation in our commitment to racial justice,
June 19, 2018
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Multicultural BRIDGE helps to improve the lives of community members throughout the Berkshires, and provides consultation and training to groups and businesses across the state and throughout the country.