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Ten Ways to Diversify Magical/Pagan Groups

Look around the room. How diverse is your group? Are there ten guys and one woman (the Wendy and the Lost Boys configuration)? Half men and half women, all white? No kids, no seniors, no one in a wheelchair?

Why does it matter if the room is filled only with our friends? It means our message is not reaching everyone who needs to hear it. Also we learn from people who are not like us, it grows our world.

The magical groups I spend most of my time with skew white/middle-aged/childless/able-bodied. Here are some starter ideas for getting more diversity in our groups.

One: Educate ourselves

The first item on any diversity agenda is learning about the experience of people not like us. There is so much information available about people of color, women, transgender and other genders, families, disabled people, seniors, veterans. In my corporation and as a human rights council member I organize lectures and panels which invite subject matter experts to share their knowledge and experience. From these events we learn that fathers need paternity leave, parents need flex time and child care, disabled people need equipment, trans people need non-gender-specific bathrooms, seniors need not to be discounted, people of color need affinity groups.

One excellent place to start is with the works of Crystal Blanton. This writer, organizer and priestess works tirelessly to bring race into the discussion and educate the magical communities.

These books written by Crystal are excellent resources for leaders:

These anthologies Crystal has edited give a platform to many diverse voices.

Two: Educate each other
The next step is to discuss these ideas within our group and communities. We need men to talk to men to get them past mansplaining to women what we already know about our own experience. We need white people talk to white people to get past the initial defensive and racist responses. (“Why are there only white people in the room?” “Don’t they have their own groups?”)

Three: Leverage the diversity already in the group

Are there any people of color, women, disabled folk, families with children in the room? Invite them to speak to the group about their experience in life and with the group. Put them on a podcast or a panel. Ask them for their suggestions about how we can be more inclusive and accepting. Use the listen-and-learn skills honed in the education phase to maximize their time and minimize their aggravation. Say thank you.

Next, implement their suggestions. Open participation for people with different abilities. Notice the needs of people who can’t stand, kneel, or hear well. Set up child care and learn to live with some chaos. Listen to the older folk when they tell stories of the times before you came. Play music that isn’t on the usual playlist. Make non-alcoholic drinks an equal option. Cut back on the hug line phenomenon – model walking in and out without having to hug everyone in passing.

The group’s culture will change and that’s uncomfortable. That’s also the inclusion part. Being open to new ideas makes diversity work.

Four: Build a program

Where diversity doesn’t exist we can go out and get it. Twenty years ago O.T.O. groups were mostly men but we have attracted more women and other genders through focused attention. Pagan groups in the Bay Area are making active efforts to include people of color – Pantheacon 2017 had a Pagans of Color hospitality suite.

In the corporate world we have a Diversity Executive, Diversity Champions and Diversity Ambassadors. If you have a large enough organization you can implement a program. If you’re a local leader you can implement in your area. Find people interested in the same subject and sign them up. You can do podcasts and conference panels, workshops, reading groups. Here’s an example: T. Thorn Coyle’s New Jim Crow study group.

Five: Get out in the community

The Showing Up For Racial Justice chapter I belong to bought a table at the annual NAACP benefit banquet. The Women’s March Huddle I belong to visits the ICE Tacoma Detention Center to bring families toys and blankets. This is different from outreach to proselytize and attract new members. It’s getting your people out to listen, learn, be observed, and contribute and support.

Six: Have interfaith conversations

Social justice work is interfaith work. The entire magical-Pagan population which makes up our friend set is one-third of one-percent of the US population. Half of the country is Christian, so if you get active in social justice you’re going to end up meeting with people in churches. Most of those folk are going to be more knowledgeable and experienced than we are. They have a vocabulary and a history. They talk about the Beloved Community.

In these rooms we are the diversity people. The other folk will be curious about us. We need to have an elevator speech to explain what we do. We can also be prepared to do public ritual work. I did an impromptu invocation of Athena at an interfaith gathering that invited me to participate.

We can learn from the failures and successives of other groups. The Unitarian Universalist Church did some learning earlier this year when groups offered criticism of white privilege. The local church has responded by organizing self-education (see item one) and having hard discussions with each other. A group that has come farther along the road offers this Clergy Anti Racism Preparedness Toolkit which we can model based on our own religions and philosophies.

Seven: Be visible

  • Get out on the street with Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March and Gay Pride.
  • Wear T-shirts with your affiliation.
  • Wear clergy garb to activist events.
  • Take pictures of yourself and your group while out in the community. Post on your own internal media and on social media.

Eight: Set a policy
Stand strongly against racism and sexism and strongly for human rights. Some examples:

Statement from the U.S. Grand Lodge of O.T.O.
Solar Cross Stands for Justice
Covenant of the 9/1/2015 Statement on Black Lives Matter

Nine: Have the difficult conversation
The foundation of the welcoming community is the willingness to confront our own racism, sexism and other biases. We can start that conversation one-on-one with each other. We can bring a community leader in to do a presentation that will lead to a conversation.

It’s okay to take it slow, to make mistakes, to try it again. The important thing is to get started.

Ten. Your idea here

What has worked for your group to become more inclusive? What barriers do you experience to joining or participating in a group? What would you like to see happen? Let’s do this!

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