“Before We Were White” Participant Page

This page is for registered participants in the online course Before We Were White (Jan-March, 2020). Please do not share this page with anyone who is not taking the course.

Your participant page is where all homework assignments and session recordings are posted. We suggest you allow 2-3 hours per session for homework (it’s possible you may want to spend additional time on the activities portion of your homework, as the course progresses).


  • Your first homework assignment is posted below!


  • Note that recordings for the course will be posted under the corresponding homework assignment within 3 days after each live session.

Have you visited the Logistics & FAQ page for this course?

If not, please do so now!

The Logistics page contains important information you’ll need to participate in the course. We recommend you set aside 20-30 minutes to thoroughly review the steps outlined within it. Your diligence in this helps us a lot, as White Awake is a small organization with limited staff.

If you have questions the FAQ page does not address, please write us at: info@whiteawake.org

Homework Assignment for Session One / Jan 26

Welcome to Before We Were White! Below is your first homework assignment for the course. We ask that you do your best to complete it before session one (Jan 26).

Your homework for this course is divided into two sections: Study (with resources for you to read or view) and Activities. When we have a guest instructor joining us, your homework assignment will also preview their bio. We will allow time in the beginning of each session to check in about your experience with the assigned homework. This first session’s assignment is relatively short, but we ask that for most sessions you allow 2-3 hours to complete your homework. It’s possible you may want to spend additional time on the activities portion of your homework, as the course progresses, but this will be your choice.


GUEST TEACHERKatrina Browne headshot 300x

In the first live session, we will be joined by guest instructor Katrina Browne. Katrina produced and directed the Emmy-nominated Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, a documentary about her slave-trading ancestors. She currently works with the Episcopal Church as part of their Becoming Beloved Community racial justice and healing initiatives, for which she developed Sacred Ground.



  • What is White Supremacy – Elizabeth Martínez (10-20 min read)
  • Healing Your Thousand-Year-Old Trauma – Resmaa Menakem (5-7 min read) 
    • Author of My Grandmother’s Hands, Menakem outlines the interwoven nature of intergenerational trauma in the U.S. today (relevant to other Euro-centric nation states as well).
  • Daniel Foor on “The Role of Ancestors in Social and Earth Justice”– (18 minute watch)
    • Please watch the first seventeen and a half minutes of this talk (through the end of the discussion about ancestors who have caused harm). Note that Daniel Foor has cultivated a specific spiritual process that is distinctly different from what we will be doing together in this course. In short, White Awake does not claim to do the type of work Foor does. 🙂 Nevertheless, what Foor shares in this talk provides valuable context for the work we will be doing. We’ll discuss all of this further in the first session of the course.
    • If you need a transcript of the assigned portion of video, please let us know; the closed captions do contain some mistakes. 

After each study material, we hope you will spend a little time reflecting on what you read or watched. You may want to start a journal for this class where you make note of thoughts, feelings, or experiences you have with your homework. You might also includes questions, or other things you would like to share in a live session of the class. Folks who are using the recordings are welcome to write us with reflections or questions at: info@whiteawake.org



Throughout the course, we will ask you to do two main types of activities: an outdoor, nature communion activity and an ancestral altar activity. In preparation for this, your first assignment is simply to select a convenient spot outdoors for future activities, and clear a spot in your home for an ancestral altar.

Outdoor activity

Throughout the course, we encourage you to cultivate a quite, reflective relationship with a particular place outside. This spot should be easy for your to access; hopefully it is a place that is already a regular part of your life. 🙂 If you have mobility issues or cannot easily go outside, you might consider another way to connect with “nature” in your home (such as a houseplant or a window, hopefully one that opens so that you can hear sounds and/or feel & smell the air from outside).

The general activity you’ll be encouraged to do is to simply spend time with this place each week (once per session; there are two one week breaks during the course). We encourage you to spend 20 minutes or longer each time you visit, noticing things such as changes over the seasons and specific non-human members of the natural community in this place (plants, insects, and other animals; natural elements such as water, rocks, and/or moving air).

We hope that, when you visit your outdoor spot, you do so in a receptive mode. Note that in our industrialized, capitalist society the emphasis of our lives is to constantly “do”. Simply quieting our mind and maintaining a passive or receptive state of being is a powerful activity in its own right, and one that we believe will make a valuable contribution to your participation in this course.

Your first assignment is simply to select a spot to visit, and spend a little time there. We will give more specific assignments over the coming weeks.

Ancestral altar

This assignment pertains to a space we are asking you to create within your home. This space does not need to be large or grand in any way; you simply need room for a few items that can hold ancestral presence (pictures, everyday items, or other small tokens that represent an ancestor or family member who has passed). We do suggest that the space be one that is easily accessible to you, in a room that is part of your daily routines.

Your first assignment is to simply select and/or clear a space within your home for this altar. If you already have an altar practice, you might clear or clean (ritually and/or physically) your altar space. You may, alternatively, want to set up a different space just for this course.

We will discuss both activities during the first session, and give specific instructions as the weeks progress.