The national conversation about Race and Equity is re-energizing a conversation about the inner transformation associated with becoming conscious of the subconscious. The relationship between the development of racial awareness and spiritual awakening is evoked by the often used expression “get woke” to describe the process of becoming aware of society’s implicit subjugation of people of color and other marginalized groups in America. Likewise, becoming aware of the essential blind spot which allows the genocide and slavery at the roots of U.S. history to go unrecognized is essential to both any personal freedom and the understanding of any effective way forward.
Rethinking Whiteness: From a Tool of Oppression to a Means of Empowerment – Arielle King
Based on the teachings in Cheryl I. Harris’s well-known legal scholarship, Whiteness as Property, this workshop will lead attendees on a journey through American history to examine whiteness, white privilege, and oppression. Through understanding ways in which whiteness has manifest as a barrier for land ownership, economic prosperity, and access to human rights for other races through policy, workshop attendees will hopefully gain a better understanding of what white privilege really is. In order to emphasize the reality of this phenomenon, we will use the Flint Water Crisis as the main case study. Ultimately, the goal is that in conjunction with the other workshops attended throughout the day and the conversations about solutions for how to be a good ally, new methods of advocating for social justice will resonate in the hearts of attendees and transcend into effective, inclusive but not invasive action. This workshop is led by Arielle V. King, a student at Vermont Law School with a background in the study of environmental racism and the Flint Water Crisis.
Beyond Being Nice – Shela Linton & Kendra Colburn
What does it take to transform our own relationship to racism and other interlocking systems of oppression? How do vulnerability, personal reflection, and accountability translate into action for change? Come engage with Shela Linton and Kendra Colburn of Equity Solutions. Together, we’ll practice sharing our stories, recognizing our own positions within systems of power, and making essential connections from the personal to the structural.
The Equity Solutions team is a cross-class, cross-race, gender-interesting collaborative of teachers, trainers, social workers, community organizers, consultants, business owners, and directors of organizations. We bring expertise from our work to address inequity, as well as from our lived experiences as people who are or have been living on the harmful end of oppressive systems. Our expertise also comes from our membership in a community with a wide range of incomes and challenges.
Over and over in this work and in our lives we’ve seen that stigma, conscious and unconscious bias, and structural barriers keep people from benefiting from opportunities and resources that should be available to them. In response, we have developed strategies and techniques to overcome these obstacles. Together we bring decades of experience in community organizing, organizational development, training facilitation, and advocating for ourselves and others to survive and thrive.
Atlantic Is a Sea of Bones: Black Theatre, JAG Productions, and the Legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade – Jarvis Green
This workshop invites us to reflect individually and collectively on the afterlives and the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. We will draw from the ways in which Black theatre artists and Black queer and feminist artists more broadly have taken up this question. Finally, we will learn how JAG Productions creates spaces of engagement and of creation that allow us to honor this history, heal ancestral trauma, and open up new visions and possibilities for Black life and the Black Atlantic.
JAG Productions, Vermont’s one Black theater company exists to produce classic and contemporary theatre and serve as an incubator of new works that excite broad intellectual engagement and catalyze a shift to more compassion, empathy, and love through the lens of the African American experience. We believe in creating theater that challenges hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality and identity, and that it is vital for the future of our families, communities and our nation.
The Divide Between Black and White—Exploring the Mystery Beyond Our Stories – Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley
Are we our brother’s keepers? Are we our sister’s keeper? To what degree are we responsible for one another? Although this question was first raised thousands of years ago, it still is asked today. The way we choose answer it governs the nature of our society. How does race, how does class, how does social location make it hard to answer these questions gracefully. Through popular film, we will begin to answer these questions. We will begin to explore the mystery beyond our stories. Come join us.
Recognizing Bias: Overcoming White Supremacy From The Inside Out – Asma Elhuni & Nathalie Batraville
When the barrage of negative stereotypes linked with black, brown and native peoples in modern media and cultural imagery is left uncritiqued, a subconscious negative bias towards people of color is the inevitable result. This bias provides cover for a variety of institutional and legal structures that disproportionately disadvantage people of color. Over time bias and unjust social structures form a self-reinforcing cycle. But the cycle can be broken through fearless analysis of beliefs, biases and blind spots.
Drawing on her organizing history in Georgia and here in the Upper Valley, Asma brings a Muslim feminist critique of the creation, preservation and expression of white supremacy and calls on us to imagine radically new ways of holding ourselves, friends, and society accountable. Nathalie is a scholar who works on Black feminism and the legacies of slavery.
Serving While Black (Public Servants, Perpetual Teachers): A Panel Discussion by Elected Officials Of Color in Vermont
Across the United States at every level of government more Black men and women are running for office than ever before. Unfortunately, these individuals often face hostile situations during campaigning and once they have been elected to office. This break-out session will explore just what it means to be an elected official of color in a predominately white community in the Trump Era. We will discuss how issues on the national stage manifest in daily interactions locally. What are ways that leaders of color can better serve their constituents and how can constituents help their leaders serve? When is it acceptable for these leaders to prioritize and advocate for issues that exclusively affect people of color over issues that effect the greater community? Is that an acceptable strategy at all? This session is a collective conversation between panelists and conference attendees, so please come prepared to actively engage in dialogue throughout. Panelists are: Vermont State Representative Kevin “Coach” Christie; Hartford Selectboard Member, Jameson Davis; Past Vermont State Representative Kesha Ram; Brattleboro Selectboard Member, Shanta Lee Gardiner; and Burlington City Counselor, Ali Dieng.