I painted hawks today.
“Hawks represent determination, focus, leadership, clarity, future planning, intuitive decision making, and protection. They often show up when you are called to complete a goal or mission and need strength and encouragement to keep moving forward. Hawks are believed to be messengers from the spirit realm.”
Two weeks ago, I submitted my letter of resignation from my position as Campus Minister of California Lutheran University. As I was writing the letter, a hawk came and perched itself outside my window. I felt that the Spirit was with me.
I have been in the process of discernment for some time. I have been at this university for three years and have served the students, faculty and staff of this institution. I deeply respect and value the work of everyone on the campus and will miss the opportunity to work with and support them as they continue to work through the grief, trauma and harm of systemic racism found in this institution.
Institutions of higher education, as well as our church have a lot of work to do in order to break away from the oppressive systems. I believe and hope the next generation will help us do that. Why? Because I have spent the majority of my time in this community surrounded by some incredibly brilliant young adults and their elders. BIPOC leaders, LGBTQIA+ leaders, and allies. These folks are badasses. I see you. I believe and hope that when we listen to these people we can do it together. I believe these leaders are paving a way; I have seen them here on campus and out in the world. I am humbled to know many of them and call them my friends. Thank you for allowing me to be your pastor.
The decision to leave did not come lightly. But I, as well as many other leaders of color in this institution have seen that there is no room at the table for us – not yet. We have attempted to speak into these issues. We have been vulnerable, honest, and shown ourselves in spaces that are often uncomfortable. But because of the way roles are written, the opportunity to do so is not easy and the voices of those on the margins are often silenced. Our “lanes” are not ones we are able or allowed to navigate too far from and it has been frustrating and heartbreaking to experience and witness.
For generations, I as well as our ancestors have had to carve spaces out, we have had to wait to be invited (only to never get the invitation,) we have had to witness and experience firsthand the hurt, the not listening, the not seeing that is a side-effect of white supremacy. We have been trophies for a cause that looks good in marketing, but that cause has not effectively been executed in the structures in which we work.
The trauma of being a racial minority in a predominantly white institution is not a new experience. Yet, it has been in this pandemic that the generational pain of my siblings of color was heightened. We can only take so much hurt ourselves and watch others being traumatized before we ourselves make the decision to walk away.
I walk away not because I am done.
I am not done speaking God’s message of truth and liberation – I welcome an invitation back to the table when the institution is serious about doing the work of anti-racism, when the institution is truly ready to hear the experiences of the people on the margins, and they are ready to effectively remedy the harm caused.
This is not an isolated issue. It is systemic. It is national. Maybe even global. And it cannot be repaired overnight. It must be intentional.
There are some incredible folks in this community. Humans who supported me and my children from the first day we met. I take your stories, experiences and our relationships with me. I hold them close and am so proud to have had you speak as elders into the lives of my kids.
I have learned so much from my time here and in all my years of ministry and will take that into my next call.
You have made me a better mother, friend, colleague and pastor.
I will spend the remainder of my time continuing to pastor my community as we grieve not only my leave-taking, but the leave-taking of too many other leaders of color from this community. Just this week we have had three more leaders of color turn in their resignations.
The journey calls for me to take flight. But until I am fully able to embark, I will take time to care for my people, myself, and my family. Even a hawk has to take a moment to fly up higher to survey the land before it makes its next move. I will paint more hawks and I will dance in my Frida Kahlo robe in my kitchen making my favorite dishes. I will listen to my body as it is already telling me how we need to release this trauma together and I will watch the birds in my front hard.
I will revel in all we had together and I will mourn all that we did not.
*As instructed in the newest edition in the employee handbook: The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.