Uprooting Racism Sangha Engagement Group

Sunday, March 21, marked the end of a 5-month strategic planning process to reimagine, reformulate, and rename the Rochester Zen Center’s Seeing Through Racism Sangha Engagement Group. In response to the heightened awareness of racism in the United States triggered by the murder of George Floyd, RZC Trustees voted unanimously to contract with a consultant to guide them in a meaningful response. The goal of this work was to increase the Center’s capacity to initiate, and participate in, activities that acknowledge and address issues of racism and racial inequity, and to join other Zen Centers across the United States in denouncing white supremacy.

Moving forward, the work of Seeing Through Racism, initiated by long-time Sangha members James Thompson and Martha Howden, will be taken up by Uprooting Racism. The purpose of this group is to gain personal insight into racism in order to abandon it on an individual level, dismantle it on an institutional level, and uproot it in our Sangha. We strive towards the elimination of institutional practices that have reproduced race-, gender-, and social class-based inequities. We envision the RZC as a welcoming space for practitioners of all races and ethnicities, and a Sangha continually becoming more aware of the realities of living in a racialized society.

Uprooting Racism Objectives

  1. To acknowledge racism as one of the most insidious sources of dukkha (suffering) in our culture
  2. To acknowledge our racial identity as Sangha members, and recognize the barriers and limitations caused by our overwhelmingly white history
  3. To become aware of, and responsive to, systemic racism in our own Sangha
  4. To become a resource to the RZC leadership in situations that require the Center to respond publicly to acts of racism, and to offer advice and resources when needed
  5. To support the RZC leadership by recognizing, bringing to attention, and challenging biases and attitudes potentially grounded in racist norms and assumptions when they appear within the context of the RZC community
  6. To provide opportunities for the Sangha to increase our capacity to dissolve our own racist thoughts and assumptions, speech, actions, biases, and prejudices
  7. To deepen our practice through the realization of our interconnection to people of all racial groups and ethnic backgrounds
  8. To cultivate a community of active meditators culturally representative of our local community
  9. To maintain a focus on, and have ongoing conversations about, whiteness, white supremacy, race and racism

Uprooting Racism – Taking an Action-Oriented Approach

In order to understand the full impact of racism, we must recognize the intersections between race and all forms of social oppression, including gender- and social class-based inequities. Uprooting Racism will provide the Sangha with opportunities for consciousness raising, skill building, personal reflection, and social activism that will address the connections between racism and each of these identity markers. As we launch this new engagement group at the end of April, we invite you to participate in the following upcoming activities:

Understanding Anti-Racism

Presentation with Guest Speakers

April 25 from 7:00-8:30 PM


I am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts

Film Screening and Discussion with Director and Cast Members

May 26 from 7:00-8:30 PM


Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom, Pamela Ayo Yetunde & Cheryl A. Giles, Editors (2020)

Book Discussion

  • Chapters 1 to 3 – June 30 from 7:00-8:30 PM
  • Chapters 4 to 6 – July 21 from 7:00-8:30 PM
  • Chapters 7 and 8 – August 25 from 7:00-8:30 PM

We also encourage the Sangha to learn more about the history and broader social context of race in the United States through articles, videos, and podcasts, and to visit the following websites for additional information and strategies for taking action:

Anti-Racist Resources on RZC Website


Anti-Asian Violence – San Francisco Zen Center


103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice – Equity Includes You


United Way 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge