White Awake combats white supremacy by focusing on educational resources and spiritual practices designed to support the engagement of people who’ve been socially categorized as “white” in the creation of a just and sustainable society.
In the current historical moment, with multiple crisis coming to a head, white people have a pressing need to connect with our basic humanity and separate ourselves from the status-quo-supporting roles we are socialized and manipulated to play. To fully engage with the demands of social change, people who are socially categorized as “white” need an identity more substantial than capitalist consumer or prized citizens of an oppressive nation state. We need to know ourselves as children of this earth and members of a human family who, like everyone else, have an undeniable stake in building a just and life sustaining society in which we all can thrive.
Alongside externally focused social engagement – activism, civil disobedience, electoral politics, solidarity organizing, and all other ways we are called to meet the pressing demands of our time – each of us is tasked with the work of untangling truth from lies, uncovering hidden stories, and purifying our hearts. It is this work of education, spiritual healing, and building culture that White Awake is designed to support as part of a larger, integrated movement for healthy social change.
Because of the unique way in which “white” people are socialized within the hierarchical system of white supremacy, White Awake provides caucus spaces where our participants can reflect charged topics in a focused, supportive environment. We bring historical, economic, and political analysis together with emotional and spiritual tools to help white people:
- Reject the lies and toxic social conditioning that comes with membership in a dominant group, and see through the use of racism as a manipulative device that materially benefits a small number of powerful elites.
- Connect with our own histories, stories, and hearts while practicing and sharing life affirming cultural expressions.
- Understand our stake in necessary social change, build on personal strengths and passions, and sustain our engagement in broad-based coalitions to resist current abuses of power and co-create a truly equitable, life sustaining society.
White Awake supports a growing network of individuals and communities through our online courses and offers free resources on our website for individuals and groups who want to engage in their own educational work.
The country of origin of this work is the United States and the materials on this site deal primarily with the historical and current conditions of racism and colonization this country, though we are often joined by groups and individuals from other parts of the world. We welcome all, and we are honored by the trust and growth our learning cohorts engage in together.
May we change the legacy of white supremacy we have inherited, tackle the economic system at its root, and join with others to build a sane and just society.
WHITE AWAKE ADVISORY COUNCIL
BETTY BURKES has been an educator/activist for five decades. She has been a Montessori teacher for children, a peace educator with the United Nations, and educational consultant with Rethinkers in New Orleans. Her activism has been expressed internationally and nationally with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and as a columnist at the Cape Cod Times. Betty currently serves on the board of the Cambridge Insight Meditation Community, and is an active supporter of White Awake’s work.
BONNIE DURAN Dr.PH (mixed race Opelousas – Coushatta descendent) is a Professor in the Schools of Social Work and Public Health at the University of Washington, in Seattle and is on the leadership team at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute. Bonnie teaches graduate courses in Community Based Participatory Research and Mindfulness. She has worked in public health research, evaluation and education among Tribes, Native Organizations and other communities of color for over 35 years.
KATRINA MESSENGER is a DC native with over fifty years of experience as a grassroots activist and community leader. She has taken on leadership roles in almost every group she has joined, including her election to the state presidency of Maryland NOW and later when she served eighteen months as the acting minister for the Sojourner Truth Congregation of Unitarian Universalists. Katrina is a full time Wiccan mystic, an ordained minister, and founder of the Reflections Mystery School in Washington, DC.
MECK GROOT has worked for many years at the intersection of faith and social change. She is the Justice Ministries Lead for the New England Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Prior to joining staff with the UUA, Meck acted as Co-Director for the Women’s Theological Center where she worked with a multiracial, multicultural team of staff and partners to bring spiritual leadership understandings and practices to individuals and organizations working for social change.
REV. ANGEL KYODO WILLIAMS, Sensei is a writer, activist, ordained Zen priest, and the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace (2000). Rev. angel is co-author of the book, Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love & Liberation (2016), a powerful wake-up journey that is igniting communities — activist, Buddhist and beyond — to have the conversations necessary to become more awake and aware of what hinders liberation of self and society.
TARA BRACH is a leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on vipassana (or insight) meditation. Tara is the senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. A clinical psychologist, Tara is author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha (2003) and the book, True Refuge–Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart (2013).
WHITE AWAKE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
White Awake is blessed with a small, hands on board of directors. Pictures and bio’s coming soon!
ANDY BANKS – Campaigns Director, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
HEATHER FERCHO – Theravada/Insight practitioner, and leader of Rose City Rebel Dharma meditation group
RUBY GRAD – former board member of Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Eleanor Hancock – activist, educator, and artist
Director and co-founder of White Awake, Eleanor directs all of White Awake’s activities – from curriculum development and implementation, to organizational vision and strategy, to management of the daily functioning of the organization. She plays an integral role in the development of White Awake’s online courses, which engage hundreds of people in the work of White Awake each year. Her leadership grows out of years of experience as an academic, activist, artist, educator, and mom.
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 trained directly with Joanna Macy in facilitation of the Work that Reconnects, served on the Steering and Accountability Team of the DC Chapter of Showing up for Racial Justice, and contributed to the work of the SURJ National Faith Leaders team.
As the white mother of a biracial daughter, and Eleanor 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, respectfully integrating herself into different cultural communities, and expanding her understanding of society as a result are integral to the work Eleanor does.
Building White Awake from a small website to a nationally focused organization has put Eleanor in a position to learn from a wide variety of leadership in a concentrated period of time. For more about how the synthesis of her learning informs the work of White Awake, see Our Analysis.
David Dean is the Associate Director of White Awake and is passionate about supporting activists to build the powerful alliances our movements need to win. Since joining the organization as a trainer in 2017, he has taught courses for more than 4000 participants. His message is grounded in rich historical analysis and personal experience.
David is author of the essay Roots Deeper than Whiteness, a central piece of White Awake curriculum, and is currently writing a book that expands upon it. Prior to White Awake, he held roles at The Center Pole (an Indigenous-led organization on the Crow Reservation in Montana where he coordinated a youth activism program) and Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (where he supported efforts to address school-to-prison pipeline in Oakland, CA). He has also spent significant time facilitating groups of men working to overcome hyper-masculine social expectations.
David was shaped most by his parents’ love and his upbringing in Quaker communities. He loves to facilitate others’ discovery of their own inherent goodness and power to create social change. Learn more about him at davidbfdean.com.
The seed of this project started with a small group of Insight Buddhist practitioners in Washington, DC who, as white allies to practitioners of color within their local sangha, wanted to educate themselves about race. The group called themselves “White Awake”, and held two six-month sessions exploring white privilege, the second of which was largely self-facilitated. They received guidance from two socially engaged Buddhist teachers: Cheri Maples (policewoman and Dharma teacher who did groundbreaking work bringing mindfulness to criminal justice professionals); and Arinna Weisman (an Insight meditation teacher with a childhood steeped in the Anti-Apartheid solidarity struggle of South Africa, her country of origin).
Around this same time, a group of environmental and social justice advocates organized a workshop for local activists, educators and community leaders with Joanna Macy at the Stone House (Mebane, NC) in the spring of 2012. Joanna Macy, a Buddhist scholar and long time advocate for peace and environmental sustainability, led 30 participants in 10 days of intensive practice in the Work that Reconnects (WTR).
An interchange between these two groups came about when Kristin Barker (one of the co-founders of “White Awake”) met Eleanor Hancock (an organizer of the WTR workshop in Mebane,) and began to share about the white caucus experience she was having in DC. As these two advocates for social and environmental justice exchanged 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 the DC based Insight meditation practitioners, integrating select aspects of the WTR, 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). During this same time period Eleanor offered a series of workshops for the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (with which many of the original “White Awake” study group participants had an affiliation) that integrated mindfulness and Work that Reconnects practices into a racial awareness training for white people. These workshops became the basis for the online White Awake Manual, hosted on this site.
White Awake has grown from these humble beginnings with support from Tara Brach, the Brach Foundation, the Insight Community of Washington (which was fiscal sponsor for White Awake in the first several years of its development), and many other donors and supporters.
A four and a half year old organization, White Awake has directly served over two thousand people through our trainings, workshops, and Leadership Network. We currently offer training, resources, networking opportunities and other forms of support to over 4,000 people.
White Awake is not a Buddhist organization, nor does it take a distinctly Buddhist approach to anti-racism education. White Awake brings historical, economic, and political analysis together with emotional and spiritual tools from a broad spectrum of practices to serve our diverse and growing network.
White Awake™ is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
All donations are tax deductible.
Our name is trademark protected, to maintain the integrity of our mission and work within the larger field of anti-racism education. We encourage you to use our materials, but not our name.