To the community of Putney, our Town, State and Federal elected officials and other Towns taking up the  work of understanding systemic racism. 

Black Lives Matter Putney

In Jan 2016, the Putney Friends Meeting (Quakers) agreed to hang a Black Lives Matter sign in front of the  Meetinghouse. We also agreed that we wanted to  become a body that is actively involved to make our  Quaker Meeting and our community as a whole, active  participants in the change that needs to happen to  become more anti-racist.  

Part of that understanding is that white people in our  congregation and community need to learn the history  and impact of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, continuing  disparites in opportunities for housing and education  and mass incarceration of african americans, as a result  of white american denial and indifference. We need to understand  how the resultant white privilege is not simply a matter  of individual acts of blatant violence, but in fact the truth  that unwittingly all white people have inherited systemic  racism. It shows up for all white people, and it is our  responsibility to work on intimate understanding of how  that system of racism plays out all the time in our  interactions with people of color. 

On September 2, Steffen Gillom, President of the  Windham County NAACP, attended a Select Board  meeting in Putney. That meeting, like all public meetings, was recorded and broadcast by Brattleboro Community Television (BCTV). Watching this meeting is a  great example of a person of color speaking up about  systemic racist activity that he had experienced. It took great  courage for him to address a room of white people  about behavior that white people find difficult to acknowledge,  because of the enormous discomfort it provokes in themselves.  

The outcomes of that meeting for Putney were  profound. White participants were able to:

  • Admit their own  moments of unintended racism.
  • Invite one  another into conversation and study about systemic  racism, at a time when talking openly about race is still  almost impossible for white people to do.
  • Challenge one another to step up our game, to examine  closely how people of color are treated in our Town, and  how to begin to recognize how micro-agressions are  currently and actively experienced here.

We see it as  helpful and educational as white people, to invite feedback  from people of color to point out racist comments, acts  etc, such as Steffen gave us all at our Select Board  meeting.  

Members of Putney Friends Meeting continue to be  troubled by, and wrestle with, white supremacy. Our  congregation has undertaken reading racial healing 

material (anti-racism) material, sharing with other  Friends Meetings taking up this work, and participating  in local groups working for justice and addressing  systemic racism. 

Putney Friends Meeting will do the following:

  • We will join in the community with continual work on  systemic racism by supporting conversations and action  that do just that.
  •  We will participate in Town wide book groups.
  •  We will support the Equity and Inclusion Committee.
  • We encourage the Select Board to take up active anti racism training as a model of getting educated about  how systemic racism works in Vermont.
  • We will encourage our membership to join the  September 27 Black Lives Matter street painting in Putney. 

We appreciate that mistakes are essential to learning,  and the real question is how we are creating a trusting  enough Town, where honest feedback from people of  color can be heard, believed and responded to by our  largely white community. This is for all of us.