GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Just along Friendly Avenue in Greensboro, right outside of First Friends Quaker meeting stands a nearly six-foot sign with a message arguably bigger than the actual structure. It’s just one simple sentence, but the message is a powerful statement on where the church stands on the issue of racism.
The sign reads “Racism harms us all.” It was put up by a group within the meeting called Working Group to Undo Racism.
“The working group to undo racism decided to put up a sign to let people know that we are an open and welcoming church,” said Lou Gordh, a member of the church and the Working Group to Undo Racism. “We feel that we need to make a statement about where we are as Quakers and as a meeting concerning racism and how we feel about the issues.”
The words on the sign made passerby Delissa Gayle stop and pay the church a visit.
“I was driving. I always drove by and my daughter and I first looked at it and thought, what does that say?” Gayle said.
After her initial visit, Delissa became a regular at the church. While she hasn’t officially joined yet, she says she’s been attending the meeting for the last six months.
The pastor of the church, Lia Scholl, says new members are a plus. Making sure people feel welcomed is more important.
“I think we want them to know we’re working on it. Not that we’re perfect, not that we’ve got this down, but that we are working on it, trying to acknowledge both the past and the current things that are happening right now. Sometimes even from us, that we are trying to combat racism in ourselves and within the systems in which we find ourselves,” said Lia Scholl, First Friends pastor.
The Working Group to Undo Racism was birthed at First Friends in 2017. Members spent months discussing every single detail about the sign, including what it should say.
“This sign, racism harms us all was from the study of another book,” Lou said.
“The sum of us by Heather McGhee. Which makes the point largely that racism doesn’t just hurt black people, it hurts all of us. And we believe that and it’s part of the reason that we want the sign up,” Lou’s Husband, Rudy Gordh said.
The group meets regularly, read books, have difficult conversations, and figure out small steps they can take to try and rectify what they call the sins of the nation.
“We try to do exactly what our name says. Undo racism in any way that we possibly can impact that.” Lou said. “People feel ‘I’m not racist, why do I need to study, why do I need to even talk about it?’ but we are finding that that is not really the case. There is such a sub current underneath. Everything that we live and breathe. It is the nation’s first sin and we need to understand how it permeates all of our lives,” she said.
Just like the sign, the entire congregation has pledged to stand up against racism and injustice. Members here know they alone can’t eliminate racism with one sign, but they’re more focused on making progress.
“I think we need to continue to try. Undo. Racism,” Lou said.
Members of the church say they hope the sign attracts people from all racial backgrounds. Their goal is to build a welcoming and diverse congregation.