Interview with Soul 2 Soul Sisters Facing Racism Program
Reverend Dr. Dawn Riley Duval is s a social justice advocate and community organizer. She is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Denver Chapter, as well as a co-founder of Soul 2 Soul Sisters – a fiercely faith-based, Black-Womxn-led racial justice non-profit organization in Denver, CO.
R4S: Reverend Dawn, when did you receive your life's calling? How did you decide to found Soul 2 Soul Sisters?
DRD: After earning my master’s degree in Print Journalism, I worked as a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News. I loved learning about all the happenings in the Denver Metro area, and it was frustrating covering a story but not being able to directly help people. Soon I decided to attend Vanderbilt Divinity School – I really wanted to focus on social justice work as a faithful person. While I was there, I learned about racial justice work, womanist theology and liberation theology. I came to realize that Black people need to heal from the vestiges of slavery, and white folks do as well.
R4S: How would you describe Soul 2 Soul Sisters’ mission?
DRD: Soul 2 Soul Sisters is a fiercely faith-based, Black Womxn-led, racial justice organization focused on Black healing and Black liberation. Soul 2 Soul Sisters has four areas of focus: 1) Black Womxn’s healing, health and joy; 2) ending anti-black racism through our Facing Racism program; 3) participating in reparations discussions and serving as a recipient organization of reparations; and 4) voter engagement through our Let My People Vote program.
R4S: How does the Facing Racism program work?
DRD: Soul 2 Soul Sisters hosts Facing Racism cohorts of 20 mostly white people from various religious traditions in centering Black Womxn and our experiences. Integrating spiritual, ritual and ancestral fields with anti-racism education toward action, Facing Racism provides:
- Sacred space for participants to learn and share deeply about race and racism
- A healthy and delicious dinner
- A range of racial and theological analyses
- Information about reproductive injustices against Black people in the United States historically and presently
- Vocabulary that is used frequently in discussing anti-Black racism
- A myriad of diverse anti-Black racism resources
- Opportunities to cultivate relationships with white accountability partners for continued anti-racism work
- An affirming space for participants to develop and implement personal and collective plans for eradicating white supremacy.
R4S: Have you been able to gauge the impact of the Facing Racism program so far?
DRD: Absolutely! We've had an elected official participate in Facing Racism and she said that it affected how she drafted and interpreted the potential effects of policy. She also said that Facing Racism helped her decide to go to seminary. Additionally, Facing Racism was the impetus for some participants deciding to enroll in programs that emphasize racial justice. It has led other people to launch anti-racism programs.
What I love most is hearing the effects that Facing Racism has in the life of past participants. Recently, I met with a participant and she said, “Facing Racism changed my life. I can't unsee. I can't pretend that I don't know the impact of racism anymore.” In their personal lives and in the greater community, people are responding to what they can no longer unsee and this will help save Black lives.