A​ndrea Sawyer-Kirksey leading the "Cultural humility" seminar at the 2019 Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City. Photo by Travis Duerksen.

By Travis Duerksen
Friday, April 3, 2020

NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – When Andrea Sawyer-Kirksey talks about cultural humility, she traces her personal journey directly to her mother. Speaking to a group at the Mennonite Church USA convention last summer, she described that her learning started when she was “[born] Black in America. Fortunately, the woman who took me home was a very empowered, passionate, single mom of six committed to justice and equality."

Sawyer-Kirksey, executive director of DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection), will lead a free webinar focusing on cultural humility on Apr. 16 at 6 p. m. CDT. DOOR is a faith-based network that provides opportunities for learning, service and leadership for youth and young adults in cities across the United States, and is a partnership program of Mennonite Mission Network.

The webinar, or “teach-in” as Sawyer-Kirksey describes it, will focus on how individuals and groups can foster cultural humility through their everyday relationships, especially in the context of service.

“In an increasingly multicultural world, we no longer have the opportunity to avoid each other,” said Sawyer-Kirksey. “We really have to engage in knowing one another … and realize that we have to get this information from each other.” 

That’s where cultural humility comes into play. To engage in knowing one another takes compromise, patience, and a willingness to make mistakes and reveal ingrained biases. 

“My mom used to say, ‘Your slip is showing,’” recalled Sawyer-Kirksey. “That thing you were trying to hide, it slipped down so people can see it. I can see your bias.” 

However, that willingness to be open and honest is a key component to practicing cultural humility. Building mutually beneficial relationships between people takes work from all parties. When people of different cultures come together, Sawyer-Kirksey explained, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the person of color to educate the other.

“[That] is not friendship,” she said. “It’s just another space for White people to use the lived experience of people of color for their teaching and education.” 

Instead, Sawyer-Kirksey suggested, cultural humility requires White people to deal with their own racism, as well as to listen and to reflect. 

“When we don’t recognize the power we have, we can do real damage,” she cautioned. 

For more information and instructions on how to join this upcoming webinar, click here.






​Andrea Sawyer-Kirksey is the executive director of DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection).



Leader leaves missional mark on agencyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/Leader-leaves-missional-mark-on-agencyLeader leaves missional mark on agencyMissional discipleship legacy
A handbook for adulting (written by someone who’s still figuring it out)https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/A-handbook-for-adulting-written-by-someone-who’s-still-figuring-it-outA handbook for adulting (written by someone who’s still figuring it out)Adulting Guide
Inauguration thoughtshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Inauguration-thoughtsInauguration thoughtsInauguration thoughts
A time to trust — Missional Meditationshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/video/A-time-to-trust-—-Missional-MeditationsA time to trust — Missional MeditationsLectionary
Two-way Mission updatehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/video/Two-way-Mission-updateTwo-way Mission updateEcuador
Called amid crisis — Missional Meditationshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/video/Called-amid-crisis-—-Missional-MeditationsCalled amid crisis — Missional MeditationsLectionary