Letter to the Editor: Rebecca Hilgen Bryan

Borough native and resident, active with local house of worship, calls upon community for more interaction and greater understanding of the Black experience.

Dear Editor,

Since October, the Justice and Advocacy Committee of First Presbyterian Church, Haddonfield has been hosting Sunday morning “Conversations on Race,” in collaboration with the Rev. Dr. Gregory McMillan, pastor of Hamilton Baptist Church. Rev. McMillan was born and raised in Haddonfield and identifies as Black. 

Most participants in this conversation identify as white, and some also grew up in our town. Growing up in Haddonfield, or any other predominantly white town, means that we have been shielded from the profound disparities that exist in our American society, unless we intentionally seek to experience life outside our segregated bubble. To increase our understanding of what it’s like to be a person of color in the U.S., we prepare for conversation with an article or video, then pose questions. Rev. McMillan recently asked our group, “When was the last time you had a person of color over for dinner?” and, “Who discussed race with someone who identifies as Black this week?”

We have also used Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege” to guide us, with questions like, “Is this statement true for you? ‘I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.” Attendees who are at different levels of awareness ask questions themselves, and we are all more aware of the privilege bestowed upon us because of skin color.

We feel honored by Rev. McMillan’s patient conversations with our attendees; Black leaders and friends of ours express profound exhaustion, and frustration, with white culture’s inability to see blatant, structural racism playing out all around us. Life expectancy can be estimated based on zip code – with people living in poverty at risk of dying 20 years younger than those living in affluent neighborhoods. Blacks have been blocked from establishing family wealth, both post-Civil War and post-World War II. We conflate being a person of color with poverty without realizing it is our practices – redlining and hiring just to name two – that are barriers to success that white people never have to face.

And people who identify as Black live in concrete fear – daily – of being killed via white violence, often at the hands of police. Black lives haven’t mattered for far too long; it’s time for us to assert that they do.

Please join our Sunday morning conversations here: http://www.haddonfieldpres.org/.

Rebecca Hilgen Bryan, DNP (HMHS ’82)

The Rev. Dr. Gregory McMillan (HMHS ’86)

The Rev. Dr. Douglas D. Gerdts

Virginia Ritchie

Neva Bosch

Margaret and Bob Loweth

Lesley Kirsch

Rebeca Silva de Foote

Carol Carty (HMHS ’58)

Paul Urian

Rita Brown

Rachel Davis

Margaret and Bob Loweth

Lesley Kirsch

Rebeca Silva de Foote

Carol Carty