How a Redding church is taking a stand against racism
A Redding church is taking action to discourage racism and encourage appreciation of all people in North State communities, including in its own neighborhood.
The First United Methodist Church’s Anti-Racism Task Force hosts educational programs in and outside the church, and events that promote awareness of unfair practices and issues targeting Black people and other minority groups.
Its purpose is to “commit to challenging unjust systems of power and access by standing against, speaking against, and working against racism,” according to task force Chairperson Sue Kermode.
The church formed the task force in summer 2020, a few weeks after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. What followed were letter-writing campaigns, book distribution through kids’ programs and a hard push to improve literacy among underrepresented people in Shasta County.
The group also holds classes for adults on topics that encourage empathy and awareness of the discrimination Black people face. Course titles include “Social Principals” and “Fear of the Other, No Fear in Love.”
“Our last class ― 'Justice or Just Us?' ― had 15 people from several different churches and organizations,” Kermode said. The class will probably be offered again this year, possibly at other venues besides the Methodist church.
Courses are based on biblical teaching, and “they have a good heart for the study of racism,” said Eddie McAllister of Redding. McAllister, who attended some of the task force’s classes, is a leader in the unity-promoting organization, Shasta County Beloved Community, and a member of the Shasta County Citizens Advocating Respect.
Members of the task force also take their message of equality outside church walls.
During Redding’s Juneteenth event at Kid's Kingdom park, task force members handed out coloring books to children depicting events in Black history, Kermode said, and they just wrapped up a class dealing with racial justice during Black History Month in February.
Some of the task force's outreach efforts seek to help kids from underrepresented groups succeed in school. In 2021, members donated 24 boxes of art supplies and new books for kids to take home from the Head Start Birchwood Center on Churn Creek Road in Redding, Kermode said.
Children in the church's downtown community also benefit. In 2022, the task force won a $5,000 grant to help fund the Kindness Club at Cypress Elementary School. Students meet during recess for training in how to promote kindness to all people and “lift others up,” Kermode said.
Cypress Elementary School holds a special place in the church’s outreach programs, she said. “Cypress is our neighborhood school and our church has a long history with Cypress. We provide tutors, readers for Read Across America (program) and have helped with other needs."
The group's latest effort is a fundraiser for those most affected by the 2022 Mill Fire in Weed. On March 24, the task force will screen the film “From the Quarters to Lincoln Heights” at the church. The documentary describes the history of Black people who established the Lincoln Heights neighborhood in Weed in the 1920s, up to when the fire destroyed many of the community's homes and killed two residents.
A Mill Fire relief fundraiser follows a month later from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 22 at Fratelli's Pizza Parlor in Redding.
First United Methodist Church has a history of community outreach, McAllister said. It "has always been one of my favorite churches, other than my own. They're so progressive and contemporary;” living in the present and “dealing with current issues.”
The Anti-Racism Task Force meets at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the church, she said. The public is invited.
If you go: Screening of “From the Quarters to Lincoln Heights”
This documentary by filmmaker and artist Mark Oliver describes the history and culture of the Lincoln Heights community in Siskiyou County. It explains how a Black community came to be in Weed in the 1920s. Known as the oldest Black settlement west of the Mississippi, more than two thirds of Lincoln Heights was destroyed in the Mill Fire last September. The fire killed two people and devastated the community.
- When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 24
- Where: First United Methodist Church, 1825 East St., Redding.
- Admission: Free. Free childcare provided. Donations will be accepted for Lincoln Heights residents most impacted by the fire.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and news stories. Follow her on Twitter@RS_JSkropanic and onFacebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work,please subscribe today. Thank you.