I Call You Friend: Four Women’s Stories of Race, Faith, and Friendship

I Call You Friend by Pamela A. Toussaint and Jo Kadlecek reveals an America that is seldom seen in the papers or on the talk show circuit. As the authors share, the stories reflect on actual encounters, ask hard questions and describe their combined experiences — both good and bad — in black and white America.

Vivid, poignant, humorous, hard-hitting and honest, four women — two black and two white — offer intimate portraits of how they grew from children to teens to adults against the backdrop of racial tension that ultimately shaped them into friends and unified them in the quest for racial reconciliation at its most personal level.

“We share them because we hope in some way they will move others beyond the cultural politeness of “Hi, how are you?,” to the meaningful dialogue of “Hi, who are you?” From the experiences of Toussaint, a New York-raised African American woman; Kadlecek, a white American woman with suburban roots in Colorado; Elvon Reed Borst, a Southern African American; and Andrea Clark, a white woman born in Baltimore, Maryland to parents in the ministry.

Divided into four sections, I Call You Friend shows the “coming up” of each woman in the city, suburbs, South and North; their individual “coming of age” through high school and college; their “coming together” through a series of God-ordained circumstances, convictions and faith; and concludes with a dialogue for the future that offers 25 things others can do to improve cross-racial relationships.

“We are a product of our experiences — two black, two white. We have been shaped by our upbringings and affected by our society,” the authors state.

From vastly different backgrounds, four women identify common struggles that include: self-preservation because of their skin color or socio-economic class; a sense of not fitting in that often resulted from trying to combine two cultures; alienation both within their own culture and others.

As Toussaint relates, she was a middle-class black child with a white nanny in the 60s. As Borst relates, she was one of 15 children growing up on a farm that sat next to a Ku Klux Klan family. As Kadlecek relates, her life was steeped in white privilege until she discovered the horrifying truth of American slavery at age eleven. And, as Clark relates, all the exposure to ‘cultural diversity’ in the world didn’t prepare her for being spit at by an angry black girl or being mugged in the inner-city neighborhood where she worked.

The diversity of the stories merge within a more spiritual context of the search for self. Ultimately, all four women became convinced that racial harmony must begin at heart-level. Eventually, their varied paths crossed in New York City, where the four work to facilitate racial understanding separately and as a group via speaking, writing and conducting workshops.

“We hope people of all colors will be inspired to become friends in spite of and because of their cultural differences. It is not a simple matter — one nicely packaged with easy-to-follow directions on the back of the box … but where the reward, regardless of the struggle, is great and refreshing and fun.”

“Yes, God is good. And there is a race problem in our country. We have experienced both.”

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