What happens when thousands of racial justice leaders and practitioners come together after a pandemic? So much power and knowledge-sharing – and plenty of dancing and hugs, and even a few martinis!
At the 2022 national Facing Race Conference in Arizona, sponsored by Race Forward, participants were graced with gratitude for their work for racial justice, invited to be even bolder in our approaches, and instructed to avoid internal implosions at a time in which our organizations and the movement are needed the most.
I heard five important calls-to-action:
- Backlash Means We’re Winning. Keep Going!
We’re winning! The number of people of color leading and pushing change in institutions is at its highest levels. We see movement wins such as the growing people of color electorate and the halt of the Keystone pipeline. The use of the word “systemic racism” is now commonplace. We were encouraged to keep pressing forward and harder to break through on our biggest ideas. Opening plenary speakers said, “Fight for your impossible idea… and let us dream and fail.”
- Get out of Isolation. It’s Time for Reconnection!
We’ve become accustomed to quarantine and staying close to home but we were encouraged to move out of our comfort zones. Specifically, we were reminded to talk to people at their doors and to bring them back into protests and visible organizing. One speaker said, “we have to retrain people, including ourselves, to interact again, especially in person and in public.” At IISC, our mission is creating skills for collaboration and interaction. We’re exploring how we can enter and hold physical spaces with care while still centering those at risk from COVID through an equity and disability access lens.
- Don’t Underestimate White Nationalism. Expose and Bring it Down!
As distinct from the ideology of white supremacy, white nationalism is coordinated and direct action fueled by hatred and violence. Organization-building to support white racist and anti-semetic attacks and violence is on the rise and getting very sophisticated. From Boston to Michigan and Florida, leaders pointed to overt and well-organized actions in their communities from white nationalist organizations. They encouraged us to work with community organizations, government leaders, and neighbors to develop strategies to prevent their inroads and to frame messaging to drown out their discourse.
- Stop Internal Organizational Implosions. Build Organizations on Soul Work!
We heard a loud and clear call for each person inside an organization to take responsibility for extinguishing the internal fights we are waging against each other so we can focus on the external fights for justice. No organization, person, or leader is perfect so we can’t cast each other to the curb in punitive and harmful ways, stay in victimization, attack each other, and fall into gossip. They asked us to build our organizations so people can do their soul work and be liberated to do work with joy and happiness.
- Move Forward. Live into Possibility!
I was struck that you barely heard the name “Trump” around the conference. The focus was on moving and organizing for what we want and imagine. Not that we don’t pay attention to the war on our democracy and progressive values but that we go in the direction of creating even more conditions for change and living good personal lives as we do it. IISC held a workshop at the conference on fighting the return of the old normal by envisioning and leading for liberatory systems and racial justice transformation. We produced a resource guide to help you and other organizations do that while attending to the current challenges before us. Check it out.
In summary, we have power, we’re winning, and we need to reconnect and get our own house in order. Now that’s a push we at IISC appreciated and definitely needed, and maybe you feel that way, as well. We hope to see you at the next Facing Race conference in 2024.
As president, Kelly Bates (she/her) leads the strategic direction of Interaction Institute of Social Change and supports its dynamic and diverse team of consultants and trainers to meet the organization’s highest aspirations for social change and racial equity.
Kelly is a social changer, nonprofit civic leader, and lawyer who for more than twenty-five years has led advocacy, organizing, racial justice, and women’s organizations promoting collaboration, equity, and civic engagement, both locally and nationally. She strives each day to develop and embody the heart, skills, and mindset of a facilitative leader and civic innovator for progressive movement building across the country and in communities.
originally published at Interaction Institute for Social Change on December 13, 2022
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