by Len Lear
The day of the O.J. Simpson not guilty verdict, Germantown resident Delores Paulk wrote a letter to the editor of the Local. Her writing stirred emotions, and many responses followed. Her book, “The Paulk Perspective: A Whole New World of Hope and Understanding,” includes that letter and many others she had published locally in the 1990s.
On Saturday, Nov. 10, Paulk will team up with Yvonne Thompson Friend, previous public sector and non-profit leader and community organizer. Their “Hear Our Voices” program invites participants to speak about the current state of race relations but also to listen. It will be held at Mt. Airy United Fellowship, 701 West Johnson St., from 1:30 to 4 p.m. The public is welcome to this free event.
Paulk, 68, was born to Jacob and Kathryn Buckwalter, missionaries in Kentucky at the time. In 1971 she met the Rev. Bill Drury, founder of a Christian Youth Organization called Teen Haven and followed him first to Lancaster County and then to North Philadelphia. “I spent seven years as a Bible teacher, camp counselor, rec room supervisor and bus driver,” she said.
“My experiences during that time opened my eyes and heart to a world I never knew existed. When I left Teen Haven and moved as a single woman into Germantown (in 1980), I met a black man named Peter. Through many, many long conversations I learned about the history of blacks in America. Thirty-eight years and two kids later, we are still talking, and I have a deep desire to share what I have learned with the hopes of introducing my readers to a whole new world of hope and understanding.”
Paulk’s book was published by Helping Hands Press after she sent them samples of her letters to the editor. According to the Rev. Cheryl Pyrch, pastor of Summit Presbyterian Church in West Mt. Airy, “A Whole New World…” “honest, searching reflections on the need for white people to better understand and combat racism in ourselves and the world. The author reflects on personal experience and national events in clear and graceful meditations … In her words, ‘Years later I’m still listening and learning.’ Hopeful, impassioned and practical.”
Another admiring reader, Brian D. Jones, wrote on the internet, “She writes about all the love she and her husband, Peter, have experienced together. Peter is black and grew up in a world that is foreign to white people, and Paulk in her book shares her experiences about what she has learned while married to this wonderful man. She teaches white people about tolerance and understanding and how to just listen to what black people have to say.”
Speaking about her husband, Paulk told us in an interview last week, “Pete has experienced racism in many forms. He was told when he was young that his lips were too big to play the trumpet, and his hands were too small to play the piano. He was punished often as one of the few black children in a white Catholic orphanage. He was set up to look guilty of stealing on the job. He has often spoken of white folks trying to steal his mind, take his thoughts. As a couple, we’ve only had to deal with a few people who seemed to hate the sight of us being together.
“My message to white people about the issue of race, and what I hope this program on Nov. 10 will emphasize is this: I believe that the biggest problem in race relations lies in the inability of white people to listen to black people. I mean really listen without criticizing. Without defending. Without interfering. Without interjecting our thoughts, our values and our opinions.”
Paulk has been involved in many forums and church activities over the years designed to heal and ameliorate race relations. “I wrote a letter of apology for racism after the incident at Charlottesville that I handed out to people on the subway,” she said.
“I love living in Germantown. It’s a lovely area, and it’s a quick commute to my job in center city. As far as minuses, I’ve had run-ins with a few neighbors who didn’t like it when I told them to turn their music down after midnight, but that’s part of living in a city. When I first moved in, I was one of a very few white folks. Now there seem to be more moving in. Don’t know how I’d feel about it turning totally white, though. I really like mixed neighborhoods … One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was look at my son in a hospital bed after he’d been beaten up by the police.”
For more information about the Nov. 10 event, email firstname.lastname@example.org