Invitation from the Leaders of Race Intensive 1.0
By: Reality SF
At Race Intensive 1.0, individuals will participate in two weeknight gatherings with people of their same racial background before uniting in a larger, shared Saturday event. The goal of these separate gathering spaces is to allow the safety to speak freely, confess, lament, and ask questions. Each of these race-specific gathering spaces are being led and facilitated by members of our own church community. Below, leaders from each leadership team briefly share their own experiences of race and why they are looking forward to participating in Race Intensive 1.0.
Leader for the Black Gathering Space
My name is Cami Jones. I’m a middle school teacher, and I’ve been attending Reality SF for four years and leading a CG for a little over two. In addition to being an educator and an East Coast transplant, I am also a Black American. That identity has deeply impacted my experiences, my perspectives, and my faith. That identity is a source of joy and pain, and I believe deeply that all of who I am, my whole self, is visible and valuable to God. Because of that, I also believe that the family of God needs to see and value those aspects of identity.
That is why I am excited for Race Intensive 1.0. As the church, we should be modeling what it looks like to love others in a way that is true, deep, and costly. Because real community requires all involved to be humble and lay down privilege, just as Jesus did. We should be courageously entering into challenging conversations and modeling for the broader culture what true restoration and reconciliation can look like. As we begin through this event to develop fluency in the language and practices of justice and love, I look forward to experiencing true unity, which can only exist when people can bring the whole of who they are before God and others and experience grace and acceptance. I hope you will join me.
Leader for the Asian / Pacific Islander Gathering Space
My name is Ikaika Valeria. I grew up on the island of Kaua’i, Hawai’i, but moved to San Francisco six years ago and have been part of Reality SF ever since. Currently I work in facilities management at Ancestry.com, but before that I actually worked with the Reality SF staff for two years. My wife and I, along with our four-month-old son, lead the Bernal Heights Community Group.
I believe that each of our ethnicities are important to Jesus because they each reflect a different part of God’s heart and character. Without each unique ethnicity and culture, we would be missing out on experiencing the fullness of Christ. The Hawaiian/Polynesian people as a culture are very family oriented. We also place a high value on honor, respect, and pride in our heritage. All of these qualities are ones that I believe Jesus Himself embodied. I believe that as a church family, it is important for us to talk about these things not in order to tear us apart, but to unify us. By talking about our different ethnicities, we are able to call out the different ways God can use each of our strengths to build up the body of Christ.
Initially, I was hesitant about joining this conversation around race, because I didn’t feel like I had something to bring to the table. But immediately after, I knew that wasn’t from God. I’m looking forward to Race Intensive 1.0 because I believe it will allow the people in our congregation who may feel powerless or misunderstood to have a voice regarding injustice. I encourage you to take this leap of faith just like I did.
Leader for the White Gathering Space
I’d like to speak directly to the white folks at Reality SF: please participate in this event with me. I have been at Reality SF about three years and have served as a Sunday usher and Inner Sunset CG Leader. I am white, and I grew up mostly around white people. I never felt racist or witnessed much racism firsthand. And I have put time, money, and a loud voice into other justice issues – but racism is harder to talk about. Most of my life I have chosen to live, vote, and worship in my comfort zone and stay quieter on race issues so I don’t say the wrong thing. It has been easy to opt out of doing the work to learn and understand my brothers and sisters of color (and my role in the system) because I am personally “not racist.” But I have come to believe that my ethnicity is important to God because He cares how I have experienced history, and how my friends of color have experienced history. My white skin plays a role in who I am and informs my capacity to understand God. It feels important not to ignore that. I am excited to be part of this messy but real conversation because I want to do the work to respond more like Jesus to prejudice and injustice.
It is significant for us to show up to events like this even if it feels uncomfortable. Our efforts to engage and be present extend a message of love and care to our brothers and sisters, our family in Christ. This Race Intensive 1.0 is a great first step in our learning how to show up for the family. In a safe space where no prior knowledge is necessary. We will do some learning, self-reflection, and guided discussion about our role in the “race conversation.” I love you guys, and I hope you will join me for this.
Leader for the Latina/o / Native Gathering Space
Greetings! My name is Lauren Walker-López. I am from Valley Center, California. I am a second-generation Chicana on my mother’s side and fifth-generation German-American on my father’s side. I moved to San Francisco five years ago for school and now work in the city for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at San Francisco State University. I have been attending Reality SF off and on for these past five years, and I am looking forward to making a deeper commitment to community here as I transition fully into post-grad life.
As I look around at the divisions in our nation concerning race and ethnicity, it all feels deeply personal and connected to my own experience as a biracial, white Latina. Growing up, I received a number of mixed messages about who I was. Even though my mother always affirmed my ethnicities by stating, “Lauren, you are both Mexican and German,” others in my family and in different communities rejected and refused to affirm these identities. It was not until the last couple of years that I was able to process my experiences and what Jesus has to say about them. While a good portion of my journey has been filled with the pain of not feeling Latina enough and misconceptions of myself and others in my community, Jesus has used community, family, Scripture, and the lingering affirmations from my mother to bring healing to my sense of ethnic identity. This has resulted in an understanding that I am sent out to share the Gospel in the fullness of who God has made me to be. The Good News of Jesus is not a separate story I tell, but one that is closely tied to my story and healing as a biracial white Latina.
I am incredibly excited to be a part of Race Intensive 1.0 because it is in community where we can receive healing from Jesus in all the intersections of who we are as Latinxs and First Nation peoples. While we all come from different nations, cultures, and even races, the evenings we gather can be brave spaces where we can grow in humility and courage as we share the realities of our ethnic and racial identities. I also look forward to the full Saturday spent together to listen, share, and grow as an entire church community.
Registration for Race Intensive 1.0 is now closed.
If you’ve already RSVP’d, you should receive emails from your leaders regarding the details for your two weeknight gatherings and the unified Saturday gathering.