Racial Justice Leadership Team

The Racial Justice Leadership Team, founded in 2013, helps the First Universalist plan its trajectory through its journey racial justice work. The goal of the group is to determine “how, over the coming years, every part of our faith community will be informed by racial justice principles.” The group will ensure that racial justice principles become “institutionally embedded” at the First Universalist. 1

Fawzia Khan, 2016 member of the Racial Justice Leadership Team, reflected on the team’s accomplishments:2

  • Feedback from people of color in the church: “One thing that came out of it was surveying other people of color in church and finding out what some of their needs were and then meeting some of those needs, which has been absolutely great. One outcome of that was the creation of the People of Color circle, where we can meet and talk about spirituality, but also talk about things related to being not white in America.”

  • Culturally and ethnically diverse music choices: “We’re bringing in more artists of color to perform. We are really trying to perform music from all over. And there’s always the question, 'Can be authentic while singing spirituals or latino music and so forth?’ But I think we need to make the effort to at least show that we’re not closed to learning about other music. Even if we don’t do a great job of it, we are saying that that music is worth performing and worth listening to and is an equal part of heritage of people and humankind. Our pianist has been very good about selecting pieces and gives a blurb that gives the history of the composter, and he has tried to pick composers from a range of races and cultures and talk about the impact that they had at the time they were composing. We’ve also put aside funds in the worship budget to bring in outside musicians of color. And if we get the money, hiring another musical staff person of color to help with some of those skills that we don’t have presently in our current make-up is a goal.”

  • Using choice points to make institutional decisions: “Richard Spratt, a First Universalist board member who is African-American, brought the choice points model to the team. Choice points looks at every decision point that you make as a congregation and asks, “Are you making it using an racial justice lens?” For example, how do you hire a research company to do surveys of your congregation? Do you just go to someone who says, ‘Oh, I know a really good group?’ If you do that, they’re most likely going to be white, because the congregation is mostly white. When you apply choice points to that, you ask, if we do it this way, are we excluding people of color or giving white people an advantage? Of course the answer is yes, if you’re doing it by word of mouth. We, in fact, used choice points recently to select the the Rainbow Research Group, which we’re using now to look at our visionary goals in terms of racial justice.”

  • The Team’s Goals:

    • “First of all, we want to educate as many members of our own congregation as possible, so that they are aware of white privilege, know what it means, and understand that there is such a thing as systemic and structural racism.”
    • “Secondly, we want to examine our own internal structures at the church. This involves looking for areas of white privilege that are present, and the choice points model is one way to do this. It requires looking within at things like hiring, communications, the way our social hall is decorated. Is the social hall welcoming to people who aren’t white? When people come into our services, would the message resonate with them? Or if a black person were to walk in, would they feel very uncomfortable?”
    • “The last part is relationships with other organizations outside the church. We look at organizations that are involved in this work and ally ourselves with them. It also involves looking at other organizations we hire and them what their understanding of racial justice is and what they do in their work to ensure that they are being racially just. So, if there's a company that we contract with for and we engage in that conversation with them, it brings that up for them and they think, 'Huh, we’ve never talked about that.' There was someone who wrote to the church and was so pleased because, as person of color in that company, their client [The First Universalist] was bringing it up. It gave her a sense that she wasn’t the only one talking about racial issues in her company.”
    • “A future goal is to get involved with legislative action, whether it's calling state representatives or supporting measures that are in front of the legislature.”


  1. “Racial Justice Leadership Team," last accessed June 3, 2016, http://firstuniversalistchurch.org/racial-justice-leadership-team/

  1. All of the remainder of this page's quotes retrieved from: Fawzia Khan, Interview by Natalie Jacobson, May 20th, 2016.