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Before We Were White  Participant Page

Welcome! This page is for registrants in our 2021 Before We Were White course. Please do not share this page with anyone who is not registered for the course. You are welcome to share specific homework materials, but not the link to the page – which will include links to recordings as they become available.



Supplemental Offerings: 

Important Information

Please Note: Live Session participation for this course is full (as of 6:20pm eastern time, Jan 11). If you registered to access the course via recordings only, please do not apply for a Zoom login. These applications are cross referenced with our participant database before approval. Thank you for your understanding!

For more information about participating via recordings see our updated online flyer for the course. Note that we will hold a video call with recording only participants towards the end of the course, where you can ask questions of facilitators and interact with one another in real time. Date and time TBD. Please watch for this information via course mailings and on your participant page.

Homework: Homework materials for all sessions will be posted below. Please allow 2-3 hours for homework per session. Your homework for this course is divided into two sections: Study (with resources for you to read, view, or listen to) and Activities. We ask that everyone engage with each of these prior to each session. We will allow time in the beginning of our sessions to check in about your experience with the assigned homework.

Recordings: Recordings of each live session will be available 2-3 days after it takes place. Links to these recordings will be posted at the top of the homework assignment for the corresponding session. Recordings, along with the participant page as a whole, will remain accessible for three months after our final live session. After this, study materials will be mailed to you as a PDF and session recordings will no longer be available.

Join us on Mighty Networks: Mighty Networks is a dynamic online discussion platform for course participants to connect outside of live sessions. It is the primary way for you to connect with one another (private messages are allowed, as well as whole group discussion similar to what might happen inside of an FB group). Over time, Eleanor and David hope to use the Network to share some supplemental resources with you that relate to side topics and issues arising during live sessions. We hope you will join the network and further the learning community there! :) Click here to join our group and learn more about the platform.

Have you visited the Logistics Page for the Course? Please allow 20 minutes to review this page and take the action steps outlined within it prior to the course. For those who have selected to attend live, applications for your personal zoom login must be submitted by the end of the day Saturday, January 23, in order to participate in the first live session (applications are approved manually, not instantly).


Genealogy Training 


David Dean led this supplemental training for course participants on February 20th that included tips for beginning your genealogy research, ensuring accuracy, and drawing connections between your ancestors' lives and four historical windows of this course (Harm Caused, Indigenous & Earth Honoring Traditions, Harm Received, and Resistance & Self-Determination). All course participants are welcome to view the training recording, slides, and chat log below.


Training Recording: View Here

David's Slideshow: View Here

Chat Log: Read Here


Identity-based Caucuses


We are holding the following identity-based caucuses for Multiracial, Jewish-identified, and LGBTQ course participants to reflect on the uniqueness of their course experiences in a supportive environment. All of these are optional calls that can be taken free of charge as part of this course. They will not be recorded. The caucuses are for individuals of these specific groups only and not for all participants in this course. If you have questions about whether a caucus is for you, please reach out to us at Note: You must register for a caucus in order to receive the correct zoom link to attend it (Your course zoom login will not work).

Multiracial Caucus  Meets Wed, Feb 17 from 8-9:30pm ET and Wed, Mar 10 from 8-9:30pm ET.


Facilitated by Alison Espinosa-Setchko / Learn More and Register / This is space for participants who identify as biracial, mixed race, or multiracial (in this context we are referring to individuals who have both white and non-white ancestry)


Alison Espinosa-Setchko (she/her) is a Program Manager at The Ahimsa Collective where she facilitates victim-offender dialogues, a “Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence” program at Valley State prison, and a support group for women of color survivors of sexual violence. She is currently an MSW candidate at Smith School for Social Work. Alison is of Mexican-American and European descent and is committed to making racial, economic, and gender justice manifest on a larger-scale. 

Jewish Caucus  Meets Wed, Feb 10 from 8-9:30pm ET and Sun, Feb 28 from 1-2:30pm ET. 


Facilitated by Jen Kiok / Learn More and Register


Jen Kiok (she/her) is a white Ashkenazi Jew of Polish and Lithuanian descent. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Boston Workers Circle, Center for Jewish Culture & Social Justice. She is an emerging Hebrew Priestess with the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess institute.  For the past two decades Jen has been working to build communities rooted in arts and culture that are committed to racial justice. Her own healing journey from whiteness was deeply impacted by a White Awake workshop offered by Eleanor Hancock and she is delighted to now be holding space for the Jewish affinity group in this course.  

Resources for Jewish Participants: View here

In addition to leading the Jewish Caucus, Jen has also shared a personal story and put together a small collection of resources just for our Jewish participants. These are designed to support your work with the curriculum throughout the course. We encourage you to keep revisiting these as it serves your process. 

Queer Caucus – Meets Thur, Feb 11 from 8-9:30pm ET and Sun, Feb 28 from 5-6:30pm ET.

Facilitated by Andy McGuire / Learn More and Register


Andy McGuire (they/them) is a contributor to White Awake and graduate of Landmark College. They identify as a non-binary trans masculine person and have a background in group facilitation for queer identifying people, co-developing many transgender specific programs at Landmark. In addition to Queer Caucus facilitation, Andy also regularly leads "Hard Conversations with People We Love" for White Awake, a training on communicating effectively across large political divides. 

Session One

Session One: Foundations Part I

Session Recording (1/24): View Here

Chat Log: Read Here

Presentation Content: Eleanor's Slides / David's Slides


Study Materials:

Activities: View Full Assignment

Assignment Summary: 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. Click here to read the full assignment.

Session Two

Session Two: Foundations Part II


Guest Teacher: Bonnie Duran 


Bonnie Duran, Dr.PH (mixed race Opelousas – Coushatta descendent) is a Professor in the Schools of Social Work and Public Health at the University of Washington, in Seattle. She has worked in public health research, evaluation and education among Tribes, Native Organizations and other communities of color for over 35 years.

Session Recording (1/31): View Here

Bonnie's Closing Meditation: View Here

Chat Log: Read Here

Presentation Content: David's Slides

Study Materials:

The study goals for this session are two fold: 1) utilizing resources to place your own family story (primarily as a general ethnic story) into the analysis we established last time; 2) working with Bonnie to consider, settler-colonialism and the relationship between the work we are doing and Indigenous peoples today.

Placing your family story in context:


  • Roots Deeper Than Whiteness – David Dean (abridged & supplemented with video / 1.5 – 2 hours depending on how much time you spend with prompts). Embedded videos include “Birth of a White Nation” (a 2014 presentation by Jacqueline Battalora) and "World Turned Upside Down" (a song originally by Leon Rosselson about the Diggers).

  • Research & Reflection on Your Family Story: Please click the link to review the materials we’ve shared, and spend some time reading, doing a little research, and reflecting on your family’s story.

Preparing for our time with Bonnie:


  • How Standing Rock Made the Military Occupation of Native Nations Visible - Jacqueline Keeler (15-20 min read).

  • Speaking of Nature – Robin Wall Kimmerer (10-15 min selection). Please read the first full selection of this essay, stopping at these lines: “… I wonder if English sharpened its verbal ax and lost the companionship of oaks and primroses when it began to keep company with capitalism. I want to suggest that we can begin to mend that rift—with pronouns. As a reluctant student of the formalities of writing, I never would have imagined that I would one day be advocating for grammar as a tool of the revolution.”

Activities: View Full Assignment

Assignment Summary: After locating your outdoor nature spot and beginning to create an ancestral altar last week, you will now go through your first guided experiences in each of these spaces. Click here to read the full assignment.

Session Three

Session Three: Harm Caused


Guest Teacher: Katrina Browne


Katrina Browne 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.

Session Recording (2/14): View Here

Chat Log: Read Here

Eleanor's Meditation on Harm Caused: Read Here

Study Materials:

Session Three is the session in which we focus on the ancestral window of harm caused to other groups by white supremacy, capitalism, European imperialism and colonization, and the settler colonial societies that these things birthed (with a focus on the US). Before you dive into the materials, please read the Introduction to this Section (linked below).

Introduction to Session Three Study Materials (3-5 min read).


Embracing Rootedness and Radical Genealogy - Aurora Levins Morales (10 min read)This resource may be of particular interest for folks of mixed ancestry.

Americans must grapple with their bloody past - Andy Douglas (10 min read)If you find the online article difficult to read, you may use the handout we’ve created for WA here.

Slate graphic of transatlantic slave trade (2 min interactive graphic). The horror of the human trafficking and enslavement of Africans is vast. As you watch this interactive graphic, take time to reflect on what you already know about the middle passage and subsequent enslavement, then attempt to scale this to the number of dots you see moving across the screen.


Bob’s Story from Combined Destinies (15-20 min reading) / TW: graphic descriptions of violence. This is particularly difficult reading, as it is a personal story that focuses the relationship of one man’s family and community to lynching.


We Are Here Because You Were There: Refugees at the US-Mexican Border (10 min read). Our relationship to national government is complex; no settler colonial nations are true democracies (and the majority of people have not had a say in most aristocratic or national government decisions throughout the entire history of European colonialism and expansion). However, the harms of colonization and imperialism are part of the collective legacy we want to explore in this class. Consider as well that many family members and/or ancestors were directly involved through their service in the military (conscripted or not).

Optional / Supplemental resources on imperialism: Soldiers talk about what they saw and did in Iraq (TW: Descriptions of specific acts of violence) and This is why they hate us (Salon - a history of US backed “regime change”).

We will be assigning small portions of the document “Understanding Antisemitism: an Offering to Our Movement,” by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, in multiple sessions of this course. All handouts link to the full, original document online. For Session Three, please review the following:

“The Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness”  (37 min watch / TW: descriptions of childhood abuse)

  • This is a grassroots documentary that illuminates the Indian Boarding Schools in relation to genocide of Native people’s of Turtle Island, broadly, as well as inter-generational trauma and what it takes to heal a wounded culture.

  • The material can be very triggering. Please allow time and space for your viewing and post-viewing experience.

  • The video title is linked to an edited version created for White Awake workshops; the full documentary can be found on Youtube here.

Optional related resource: At some point, now or even once the course is over, you may want to watch Traces of the Trade, Katrina Browne’s full length documentary.

Activities: View Full Assignment

Assignment Summary: This set of activities is meant to support you in holding the weight of the study materials from the Harm Caused section. Your outdoor activities include guidance to release down into the earth any emotional intensity that may have built up, as well as simply breathing and softening your focus. The ancestral altar work includes guidance to offer prayers to those harmed, call on a protective companion to accompany your work with this section, and other activities to process grief or strong emotions. Click here to read the full assignment.

Resources for Jewish Participants: View here


In addition to leading the Jewish caucus, Jen Kiok has shared a personal story and put together a small collection of resources just for our Jewish participants. These resources are designed to support your work with the curriculum throughout the course. We hope you will begin to review them now, and come back to look at different pieces of what Jen shared as it serves your process. Since Jen finished compiling this document shortly after session two of the course, we've chosen to include it alongside the session three homework to ensure that participants see it.

Sesson Four

Session Four: Indigenous Roots & Earth-Honoring Traditions

Profile RHR.jpg

Guest Teacher: Rune Harnjø Rasmussen 


Rune Harnjø Rasmussen is a Danish anthropologist of religion with a Ph.D. from the University of Uppsala. He currently focuses his work on Nordic animism and the animist culture of Euro-descendants more broadly that was rejected during modernization. He is dedicated to supporting those of us who are white in a process of reconnecting with aspects of our cultural heritage in responsible ways. 

Session Recording (2/21): View Here


Resource Shared by Malia Valentine on Respecting Indigenous Sacred Sites: View Here


Chat Log: View Here

Study Materials:


The Vast and Beautiful World of Indigenous Europe – Lyla June (approximately 20 min, including embedded video)

Question: Who are Indigenous Peoples today?


  • Defining "Indigenous" – White Awake Handout (30 min, including embedded resources). As we view our ancestry through the window of Indigenous Roots, we want to have a grounded understanding of who indigenous people are today. This handout is shared for this purpose.

Question: How might our indigenous ancestors have approached life differently than we do today?

The ancestry of “whiteness” generally involves the severing of ties with the indigenous ancestors of each group that has come to be classified as white. In many cases this break with an older, rooted and traditional way of life began hundreds or even thousands of years ago. We hope our work together will inspire you to learn more about when and where your ancestors may have lived as indigenous people, with a sacred connection to a specific place; however, we are also interested in general ways that our indigenous ancestors may have approached life differently than we do today.

The following two resources are shared with this intention in mind, and may contribute to a shifting of our own worldview or daily lives in a way that is inherently healing: 

  • Animism and Earth Ritual – Daniel Foor (10-15 min selections). Please read the following selections from this page: “What is animism?”; “Animism & Earth-Honoring Traditions”; “Animism & Ancestors”; and “Ancestors & Spirits of Place” (first paragraph only).

  • Yggdrasil as Animist Cosmology – Rune Harnjø Rasmussen (18 min watch). Rune, who will be speaking with us in this session, discusses his work on European and Nordic Animism, how it differs from modern ways of relating to the world, and how a recovery of animist modes of relating is important in our times.


Questions: When and where might my ancestors have been indigenous? What earth-honoring traditions might have continued through to the present day?

  • Research and Reflection on Your Indigenous Ancestors – A White Awake Resource Document. This exercise has much in common with the one we encouraged you to engage in for the study portion of Session Two (“Research and Reflection on Your Family Story”), however the focus now is not on migration or assimilation, but on the place or places where your ancestors held a strong bond to the land before migration, assimilation, or older disruptions by colonial and imperial forces in Europe.

Activities: View Full Assignment

Assignment Summary: This week's activities section involves practices to cultivate connection to the indigenous ancestors of the place you currently call home and to your own indigenous ancestors who had their own connection to place and earth-honoring tradition. Participants will also be encouraged to use elements of previous activities to aid them in their work with this week’s practice. Click Here to Read the Full Assignment.

Session Five

Session Five: Harm Received


Guest Teacher: Katrina Messenger


Katrina Messenger is a radical feminist of African, Cherokee & Celtic descent, and a refugee from the communist, labor, feminist, and black nationalist movements of old. With over fifty years of experience as a grassroots activist and community leader, Katrina is a full time Wiccan mystic, an ordained minister, and the founder of Reflections Mystery School.

Session Recording (3/7): View Here

Chat Log: View Here

Study Materials:


Introduction to Session Five Study Materials – White Awake (1-2 min read)

European Roots, Colonial Migration & Early Immigration  


  • Boudicca – This is a short summary of how Boudicca united Celtic tribes against the Roman invasion of the British Isles. Boudicca’s story illuminates some of the earliest forms of colonization in the British Isles, itself an example of early colonization processes in Europe. As you read, we encourage you to reflect on the following question: What ancient empires may have disrupted your ancestors older ways of life? Content Warning: Graphic description of violence against women.



  • Wanting to be Indian – excerpts - Myke Johnson (10-15 min read). Johnson’s essay is one of the strongest resources we can recommend on cultural appropriation, particularly as it relates to Indigenous or Native American spirituality. We wholeheartedly recommend reading the essay in its entirety at some point! For the purpose of this class, we are highlighting some aspects of the Harm Received window that Johnson’s addresses in the piece.


  • Wales: the first and final colony – Excerpts from a lecture by Adam Price MP (15 min read). Price’s lecture illustrates how patterns of British imperialism abroad played out and were even perfected in their colonial projects at home. As you read, we encourage you to ask yourself the following question: What intra-European colonization projects may have impacted your ancestors, confronting them with assimilation and/or cultural genocide?


  • Patterns, examples & internalized impact of antisemitism on Jews – This handout continues our summary of the Jews For Racial & Economic Justice resource we began to look at in Session Three. While for Jews this selection touches on harm caused to their communities, we note that for non-Jews, familiarizing yourself with this material can illuminate various themes of harm caused and endured within the complexities of European and Eurocentric history (through to the present day) and perhaps shed light on the ways in which bigotry and targeted violence hold up the larger systems of white supremacy and capitalism that our course is focused on unveiling.

How Harm and Manipulation Have Continued in Modern Times

  • I Ain’t Got No Home – lyrics to Woodie Guthrie’s popular song (5 min read). As you read these lyrics, consider what you know about the Great Depression, and how this time period may have impacted your family line. You might also consider the theme of “tension between those who live off of work and those who live off of money” (Grace Blakeley / Stolen). How has this tension continued through the 21st century into today? How do these tensions impact you today?







  • Wealth Inequality in America – (6 min watch) Regardless of where you fall on the graph represented in this video, consider the exploitation that is taking place by the people who are at the very top, and the way in which the entire system is untenable and destructive for all involved. Folks who are not from the United States might look for resources to consider wealth inequality in their country of origin, and/or consider the way in which the inequality in the U.S. reflects larger, global trends.



Activities: View Full Assignment

Assignment Summary: Now that we have completed four sessions of the course, and are preparing for the last two, we suggest that you consider all the activities assigned so far to be a repertoire from which to draw as we explore these last two windows. We offer some guidance for how you might do this in this unit’s activity section. Click Here to Read the Full Assignment.

Session Six

Session Six: Resistance & Self-Determination

Session Recording (3/14): View Here

Chat Log: View Here

Study Materials:


The study materials for session six include resources and guided reflection on more ancient history, more modern histories, and pathways of resistance that you may engage with today. We’ve included a personal assessment of outward focused, social change work that you may want to complete now or after the course ends. We've divided the content into the following four sections, each of which has its own page. 

Resistance to Intra-European Imperialism (15-20 mins total)


More Recent Legacies (35-40 mins total)

"The Other America" (20-40 mins total)

Engaging in Solidarity-Based Work This final portion of your study is something you might look over now, and then return to consider in depth once the course is over. We do suggest you review the personal assessment assignment before attending session six, as we will spend some time with the questions in our break out discussions. (45 mins minimum)

ActivitiesView Full Assignment

Assignment Summary: The activities portion of your homework will emphasize not only this window of Resistance, but also exercises to bring closure to the work of this class (which you may choose to do after session six). We also invite you to consider whether there are practices that you might want to continue or draw upon after your work with the course ends, and how you might integrate these into your daily life. Click Here to Read the Full Assignment.

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