Mission: White Awake combats white supremacy by focusing on educational resources and spiritual practices designed to facilitate white people’s engagement in the creation of a just and sustainable society.
Our goal is the end of white supremacy. To this end White Awake supports people who’ve been socialized as “white” with the kind of intellectual and spiritual development necessary to:
- reject the toxic social conditioning that comes with membership in a dominant group and connect with life affirming cultural expressions
- see through the use of racism as a manipulative device that materially benefits a small number of powerful elites
- sustain our engagement in cross-racial coalitions to resist current abuses of power and create a truly equitable, life sustaining society.
White Awake emphasizes mindful awareness, spiritual practice, respect for individual experience and wisdom, and the reality that we are all learning. The country of origin of the work is the United States, and the materials in this site deal primarily with the historcal and current conditions of racism and colonization this country.
Eleanor Hancock – Executive Director and Co-founder
Eleanor holds an MFA from the University of Madison-Wisconsin, where she began a study of Whiteness in the context of performance art, identity politics, and critical postmodern theory. She has foundational experience in group facilitation, curriculum and website development, community organizing, and activism. She has trained with Joanna Macy in facilitation of the Work that Reconnects, serves on the Steering and Accountability Team of the DC Chapter of Showing up for Racial Justice, and is a member of the SURJ National Faith Leaders team.
Eleanor is the white mother of a biracial daughter, and has had unique life experiences in a variety of settings in which she has been the racial “minority”. Experiencing the leadership of folks of color, integrating herself into different cultural communities, and expanding her understanding of society as a result is integral to the work Eleanor presently does. Directing White Awake is not simply a job for Eleanor, but a vocation and a calling. White Awake has grown from an online collection of resources to a multi-faceted, nonprofit organization under Eleanor’s leadership. To check out Eleanor’s voice and vision, subscribe to our newsletter! Each edition is prefaced by a letter from her.
Current board members of the project include: Ruby Grad (former board member of Spirit Rock Meditation Center), Anne Green (administrator with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington/IMCW), and Hugh Byrne (guiding teacher, IMCW).
Advisers include: Tara Brach (guiding teacher and founder, Insight Meditation Community of Washington); Katrina Messenger (founder, Reflections Mystery School); Jack Kornfield (founding teacher, Insight Mediation Society and Spirit Rock); Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Sensei (founder, Center for Transformative Change); Andy Banks (Campaigns Director, International Brotherhood of Teamsters)
We are currently working to expand our board and advisory council, and applying for 501c3 status. At present, the Insight Meditation Community of Washington is our fiscal sponsor.
The starting point for this project is the emergence of the small group self-titled “White Awake” within the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (IMCW). This group of Buddhist practitioners came together with a common desire to increase their racial awareness and sensitivity as white people in sangha with people of color. The group held two six-month sessions exploring white privilege, the second of which was largely self-facilitated. They received the guidance of two social justice/engaged Buddhist teachers, Cheri Maples from the Center for Mindfulness and Justice in Madison, Wisconsion and Arinna Weisman, founding teacher of Insight Meditation Center of the Pioneer Valley, and a dharma instructor with a special focus on “transforming those structures, cultures and relationships which are an unconscious expression of greed hatred and inequity”.
With the Insight meditation tradition of mindfulness, wisdom and compassion as the foundation of their work, the group integrated outside resources, expertise in diversity training and /or racial justice work and their own lived-experience. For many in the group, the results were transformative. Others in the Insight Community, upon learning of this experience, requested that the resources and approach “White Awake” had developed be shared with the larger community.
Meanwhile, a group of environmental and social justice advocates organized a workshop for local activists, educators and community leaders with Joanna Macy in Mebane, NC at the Stone House in the spring of 2012. Joanna Macy, a Buddhist scholar and long time advocate for peace and environmental sustainability, engaged 30 participants in 10 days of intensive practice via the Work that Reconnects (WTR).
The WTR has been in development for several decades, and is a powerful support to emotional release and healing for individuals and communities who are facing the challenges of our time with the intention of building a more life-sustaining society. The organizers of the NC workshop knew that, historically, most of the participants in the WTR have been white. They intentionally created (and outreached for) this workshop as an opportunity for a racially diverse group of participants to engage in the WTR together.
The interchange between these two experiences (IMCW’s “White Awake” and the burgeoning North Carolina WTR community) came about through an exchange between Kristin Barker (one of the co-founders of IMCW’s “White Awake”) and Eleanor Hancock (one of the organizers of the WTR workshop in Mebane). As these two advocates for social and environmental justice began to exchange ideas, it became apparent that the seed contained within the original “White Awake” experience held great potential for a wide audience of participants.
Building off of the original “White Awake” curriculum developed by IMCW practitioners, and incorporating her own personal experience and study of race and identity, Eleanor created the White Awake website in 2013 (working closely with Kristin Barker in the process). The current White Awake Manual material grew out of workshops Eleanor offered, during that same time period, for the larger IMCW community.
White Awake has grown from these humble beginnings into a nonprofit organization that focuses the skill and talent of a wide range of leadership. White Awake now supports spiritual communities and activist networks throughout the country via the free resources on our website, quarterly newsletters, consultation and in-person workshops (by request), seasonal online workshops, and an online based leadership network. If you would like to keep up with what we do, sign up for our mailing list and follow us on Facebook.