One of the great joys of my ministry is working with ecumenical and multifaith partners in offering engaging and impactful opportunities for our wider Bloomington community. These collaborations allow First United and me as a faith leader to do more things than we or I would be able to do on our own. A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of sharing in leading worship with multifaith partners as we marked two years of living through a pandemic. And in mid-May, I’ll have the joy of offering an event on creation care (focused on elementary-age children and open to all) in collaboration with the Bloomington Multifaith Alliance: Children & Youth committee (First United is actually hosting! Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 14, 10am-11:30am.).
And, just yesterday, I had the privilege of engaging in racial justice education and engagement with the Bloomington Multifaith Alliance Faith for Racial Equity committee. This event (held at First United) served as a capstone to the book read in which we had encouraged faith communities to participate throughout the spring and a transition point to putting our learning into action here in Bloomington. During the event, we lifted up to key issues addressed in Heather McGhee’s “The Sum of Us” (the focus of the book read): housing discrimination and school segregation and inequity. A number of the statistics shared by our tremendous presenters (Ashley Pirani re: housing discrimination and April Hennessey re: school inequity) struck me. I offer them here that you might be made aware and that your minds might join mine in thinking through how to address the present reality of such disparities in our community:
- Black/African American people make up 3.7% of the population in Monroe County. Of that 3.7%, only 1% own their own homes.
- While students of color make up 24.8% of the MCCSC student body, only 6.7% of the district’s educators are people of color.
- While overall in-school suspensions are at 3.5% in the district, Black/African American (10.4%) and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (10%) students receive in-school suspensions at over three times the rate of their white counterparts (3.1%).
- Black/African American students receive out-of-school suspensions at double the rate of overall out-of-school suspensions: 3.4% and 1.6% respectively.
- Black/African American (.6%) and Hispanic (.6%) students are expelled at three times the district average (.2%).
- Fairview Elementary school has both the greatest percentage of Black and Hispanic students (25%) and by far the greatest percentage of students who receive free and reduced meals (84%).
I invite you to sit with these realities and consider how our faith calls us to respond. As always, I invite you to share your musings and thoughts as you consider this information. I believe we are called to work together to create a more just and equitable world and that work starts right here at home. I encourage you to join me in connecting with our multifaith partners as we work together to amplify our efforts and make change for the good here and now and into the future.
Rev. Jessica Petersen-Mutai, Senior Minister