One plague this year wasn’t enough: Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting, gathering this week by Zoom, is facing another one: a fever of panic and hysteria over charges of — wait for it — racism.
First, though, the vector of SAYMA’s resurgent malady isn’t a lab or wet market in China. Rather, it’s a familiar figure, Sharon Smith, a self-appointed anti-racism “authority” and enforcer who has dogged, derailed and disrupted SAYMA sessions for several years. This blog reported extensively on her baleful record in the months leading up Covid’s appearance and spread. (A list of relevant posts is at the bottom of this report.)
Now that the virus is fading, Smith is re-emerging, seeming more determined after a time of enforced dormancy.
Smith has several targets in SAYMA for this week’s session, seemingly a kind of makeup list. To start with, she demanded that the YM Planning Committee dis-invite Harold Weaver, their keynote plenary speaker. Weaver is a Black new England Friend, who is on Smith’s very long list of Black Friends she has quarreled with and lumps together as a gaggle of “desperate and despicable” hacks. (Their main infraction: differing from her diktats.)
Fortunately, however, the SAYMA Committee stuck to its choice and Weaver spoke. Smith also blasted a Tuesday workshop; it regrouped and took place on schedule.
This was not the first time Smith tried to torpedo a full SAYMA plenary: in 2016, she disrupted and completely derailed the plenary appearance of Vanessa Julye, a black staffer for Friends General Conference.
As these items suggest, SAYMA has been burdened with a succession of extraordinarily feeble officers, who have repeatedly failed to preserve any semblance of its good order in the face of Smith’s recurring threats and bullying. This is even more dismaying in the Zoom era, when effective relief is but a Mute/Remove Button away. She has also disrupted and shut down other workshops which SAYMA had approved but she disliked, even threatening physical violence.
As one basis for her vehement objections, Smith claims Indian as well as Black ancestry — not only ancestry, but rank and authority as an Indian elder, beyond and over that of any other among the many Indian tribal groups in the Southeast. But she indignantly refuses to offer any evidence for those claims, condemning such requests (like all opposition) as nothing but proof of white Quaker racism. This despite the fact that inquiries last year among NC Indian groups failed to turn up anyone who had heard of her, or the repeatedly declared exalted status.
At last year’s budget session, when Smith’s same $10,000 demand was presented, it was met with a very loud chorus of “No!” from the Zoom assembly.
One wonders what the answer will be this time. In earlier posts, we reported that many individual Friends spoke of being so disheartened by this seemingly endless ordeal, that not a few were thinking of leaving SAYMA or Quakerism entirely, in the wake of it. A year later, I’m hearing more such echoes.
I wish I didn’t believe them.
>> II. Previous Blog Posts on SAYMA’s Travail
Post 1: A Sad Yearly Meeting Report: SAYMA Is Not Safe – Posted 3/3/2020.
Post 2: SAYMA: “Born for this”? Or Standing in the Way? – Posted 3/10/2020.
Post 3: SAYMA’s Not Safe, III: New Trouble: Threats Against Three Meetings – Posted March 11, 2020
Second Round – Blog Posts:
Post 4: July 15th 2020: SAYMA Showdown: Another Yearly Meeting Split?
Post 5: July 16th 2020: Response Re: SAYMA’s Travail; A Guest Post
Post 6: July 17th 2020: SAYMA and Smith: “Judging the Fruits” by Their Own Words
Post 7: July 20, 2020 Exclusive: The SAYMA Enemies List; and Two More Minutes
Post 8: July 21, 2020: SAYMA, Activists & Money: How Dr. King Almost Got Ten Years
Post 9: July 23, 2020: SAYMA Representative Meeting: Summary & Comment
Post 10: August 13, 2020: SAYMA: The Gravy Train Is Lurching toward a Stop
Post 11: September 30, 2020: After the Lynching that Wasn’t