February 21, 2012 | 1:23 p.m.
By Alennah Westlund '14
Award-winning journalist and author Patricia Raybon recently spoke at Bethel’s 2012 Winter Convocation series. AnneMarie Kooistra, associate professor of history and convocation committee chair, says the committee was drawn to Raybon largely because of her book My First White Friend: Confessions on Love, Race, and Forgiveness.
Raybon’s convocation address described the racism and sexism she encountered throughout her lifetime, and the struggles she faced in deciding to forgive her oppressors. She explained the great anger that built up inside her from years of enduring racist remarks and attitudes, and detailed an epiphany-like experience that encouraged her to forgive these wrongs. She acknowledged the difficulty of this kind of forgiveness, saying that her decision and action could only be done through God’s help. “…She [Raybon] wanted her life to be transformed from one of hate into one of forgiveness,” explains Kooistra.
Raybon’s message of forgiveness and reconciliation encouraged listeners to reflect on their own actions and struggles. She described her deep belief in the power of prayer, urging people into what she called “mountain-moving prayer.” Acknowledging that some battles, such as racial and gender equality, may seem overwhelming, she emphasized the belief that God can do great things through prayer.
Following the convocation presentation, faculty and students were invited to a Q&A forum. In this small-group setting, Raybon encouraged students to “get their own house in order,” in regard to matters of reconciliation. Students who attended said they were encouraged by her honesty and motivated to do some self-examination. Overall, Kooistra notes, this was a great opportunity to invite a diverse range of perspectives and backgrounds to have “a conversation about a topic that can often be somewhat uncomfortable."
Raybon’s latest books include The One Year®: God’s Great Blessings Devotional and Bound for Glory, a tribute to African-American spirituals.