How much do you value yourself? How much do you value others? And what does racial justice look like?
A small group of Lucy's Children gathers the first three Fridays of every month in Prospect Lefferts Gardens to ask these questions-- not only of themselves but also-- of each other, because they believe the answers to these questions are at the heart of cross-cultural understanding.
Lucy's Children-- a discussion group who pride themselves as progeny of "Lucy" the world's most famous early human ancestor-- is not led by a leading psychologist, sociologist or professional therapist. They are just a regular group of Brooklyn residents seeking a practical pathway to basic human accord.
"It's important to keep an open mind and to keep looking at people as humans rather than categorizing. But it's not easy to move beyond our indoctrinations."
"One of our main objectives is to elicit the best in ourselves and in others," said Rita Wilson, who started the discussion group as an outgrowth of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. "It's important to keep an open mind and to keep looking at people as humans rather than categorizing. But it's not easy to move beyond our indoctrinations."
It's a predominantly white group of a dozen or so seniors, noted Wilson, a black woman who grew up between Harlem and Savannah, Georgia, during the 1960s. They were born on a different page than many of today's most outspoken voices on progressive issues and so require a different pathway to understanding, one that explores the internal ties that bind.
"I started the group because white members from the Brooklyn Society of Ethical Culture were coming up to me and asking, 'What is it that we can do?'" said Wilson, of the growing topic of racial justice. "I would tell them, 'You can be of support by helping to bring attention to the matter amongst your peers; by meeting regularly to come up with ideas for creating a resolution.'"
Wilson adds that the current presidential administration has done little to build a positive racial climate and, in fact, has made it much much worse.
"There are some of us that are highly influenced by the media," added Wilson. "But regardless of what happens in the media, we should still try to be an example of self-worth. We emphasize the importance of being a model."
The group meets once a month for two hours with themed discussions around various topics related to race. Wilson said part of her aim is to get to a point where people no longer feel like race topics are taboo and where the focus is not on exploring the gaps in other people's behaviors, but with identifying the gaps within oneself that might elicit a negative or strong response to the external.
Some of the past and ongoing topics have included the case for reparations for black Americans, illegal immigration, separation of immigrant families from their children and prison reform, to name a few. But it's not just big topics they discuss; sometimes it's the simplest of answers to everyday questions people seek:
"There are some of us that are highly influenced by the media. But regardless of what happens in the media, we should still try to be an example of self-worth."
"I have a friend who admitted she was confused about what to call black people," said Wilson.
And there are some tense moments, Wilson added, but people remain committed to returning to every meeting to continue exploration.
"When it comes to Trump supporters, we have to be gentle and candid at the same time because they are not always rational and have hitched themselves to an ideology and not reason," she said.
"So, it's not easy. I still don't know where the solution is. But I do know we should continue to strive and meet and talk and ask questions anyway Not everyone will agree, but we are able to enlighten a lot of people."
Wilson said she would like to see younger people joining and adding to the discussion.
"We are open to others; it's very much worth your while," urged Wilson.
Lucy's Children gathers the first three Fridays of every month, from 4:00pm - 6:30pm at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, located at 53 Prospect Park West.