In celebration of the 50 years of the Office of Race Relations (ORR), we are featuring the stories of people in the CRC who have been actively demonstrating a passion for multicultural congregations and a commitment to anti racism. We call people who have been exemplifying these ideals, “Champions of Justice.” These “Champions” are the nominees for the Dante Venegas award that will be presented at Inspire 2022 in Chicago in August.
We are proud to introduce Victoria Gibbs as one of these nominees.
Here’s a little more about Victoria and her work:
I am the oldest of 6 children born to Virginia and Eugene Proctor. I am the mother of two daughters and three sons. Their father is deceased. I have 13 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.
Working through the mysteries of so-called "race" relations will be a part of my life until Jesus calls for me to come home. Nine of my grandchildren are bi-racial. I will be called to their side as they navigate the dual aspects of their racial identities.
I have worked in many settings in the CRC: Coordinator of the Multiethnic conference, small groups ministry coordinator and director for Home Missions of the CRC, and for Madison Square Church. I have been actively involved with the passion to dismantle Racism in the Christian Reformed Church since 1999 until the present. This zeal expanded as I became a frontline worker with Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation (CORR). The focus has become much wider than the CRC and many organizations are being coached to be anti-racist.
I was very briefly involved as interim director of Tall Turf Ministries. I took this position as a result of desiring young people to engage these issues at an earlier age. I also took on another brief assignment as treasurer of Merrill Township Treasurer in Newaygo County, Mich.
I really enjoy working outside in the yard, photography, classifying birds and scrapbooking.
Victoria shares her thoughts on her anti racism work:
My advocacy work started as I worked to follow the directions of the adults in my world who sent me to Oakdale Christian School (Grand Rapids, Mich.) where I became the first African American to graduate from the school in 1965. It was clear that the goal was for me to assimilate. I then went on to graduate as the second African American from GR Central Christian in 1970.
I moved to Los Angeles, Calif. where all my children were born. I was able to see that the world was far from Black and White. When I came back to Michigan I became the Community Outreach worker for First Christian Reformed Church. The initial draw to this position was my desire to work with folk who were in recovery. It took years before I realized that the cause of addiction and racism are very closely related.
God lit the spark for me as I stepped into the role of Multiethnic Conference Coordinator for the CRCNA. I will never forget planning and then experiencing the joint worship service of Synod and the MEC Conferees. This service featured pastors from 14 different ethnic groups gathered in a circle on the Calvin College (University) chapel stage holding raised hands as their faces looked out over the participants. Each pastor was to recite a line from the apostles' creed in their own native tongue. I was overcome by the confirmation that this sight is what makes God's heart happy.
Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation (CORR) became critical for me to understand why this image that had been so seared into my heart was always virtually impossible to experience. My years with CORR have taught me how the whole concept of race has become the tool that the enemy of God has used to keep the prayer of Jesus in John 17 from being actualized, "that the world would know we are one by our unity."
I enjoy delivering the CORR material in workshops but not nearly as much as working with institutions that have been moved from denial that racism is a problem. I can only compare it to the joy of watching your baby learn to walk. The very heart of what I believe my work to be is guiding folk to the place that all the laws on the books will not create the transformed heart that God is desiring.