A Tribute to Elandria Williams (1979 - 2020)
The year was 2012 and the Fahs Collaborative (as it would come to be known) just received a Revitalization Grant from the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock. After months of interviews and focus groups, a culminating Start-Up Conference was convened here at Meadville Lombard Theological School to blend strands of wisdom together into a plan of action. There is no doubt that our culture was shaped significantly by Elandria Williams, one of the 12 national leaders who were the well-spring for who we are today.
The three-day conference was filled with open-sky moments of everyone buzzing around the room, searching for system-changing ideas that were achievable and inspiring. As our good intentions took flight, it was Elandria, ever the "popular educator" paying attention to the margins of ideas and processes, who grounded us in higher purposes. Using the phase, “utterly different perspective," she reminded us of the very human tendency to replicate people and ideas that ultimately serve dominant (and often oppressive) structures, but also our personal legacies. Elandria's powerful critique, wrapped in a blanket of fierce compassion, enabled us to take stock of our thinking, to reexamine our assumptions and motivations and, ultimately, to build structures that contained a greater capacity for the kind of transformation we all wanted to bring to the world.
From the Fahs @ Five Conference, April 2017
The lessons from that moment have remained at the center of my heart and mind as the director of the Fahs Collaborative. Today, staff members are encouraged to not only bring new ways of thinking to our processes, but to be mindful of how our personal perspectives and commitments shape educational products. Because of the power of Elandria's ideas, our curriculum development process, for example, includes paid religious professionals who review curricular materials to ensure inclusion and access. We consistently hire writers and editors to monitor our materials, so they are accessible to those with special needs. We bake in space for alternative perspectives on our design teams to name that which tends to be invisible. Elandria constantly reminded us in full measure that it wasn't only about good thinking, but also wise, inclusive systems.
The power of Elandria's ideas shaped who we became and will continue to shape who and what we become.
In faith and gratitude,
Mark A. Hicks, Ed.D.
Director, The Fahs Collaborative