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Eight teachers and I have been making a lot of noise ever since we returned home from the WPC. We have had many gatherings where deep and challenging discussions have taken place: we’ve laughed together and we have cried together. Needless to say, we are a very tight group ever since our WPC experience.
Just last Wednesday, our group presented our experience/journey to the Monona Grove School Board (Wisconsin) and to many other people who came to watch and listen - principals, teachers, mothers, and fathers. We asked the board to give us an hour — our presentation went for 2 hours!! I created a power point presentation from which we talked about our personal reflections and growth. We also discussed topics which we learned at the WPC. WE BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN!!! People were mesmerized for two hours. People were laughing and crying. The presentation is the buzz around the district! So many people have come to us commenting on how incredible and powerful the message was. There is already talk of us presenting to the entire school district at the beginning of next school year during their in-service. Submitted by Holly Elsberry Tenebruso
I am writing to you for a couple of reasons...I attended the WPC last year with a group of 8 people from Duluth, MN. We have taken the energy back to our community and are organizing a similar, smaller scale event here in Duluth on October 30th..." Submitted by Jennifer Pigeon, UMD - Master Social Work Student, Community Organizer - Community Action Duluth, Community Impact Associate - United Way of Greater Duluth
For the past decade, the annual White Privilege Conference (WPC) has served as an opportunity to examine and explore difficult issues of white privilege and related oppressions. As stated in their materials, "WPC provides a forum for critical discussions about diversity, multicultural education and leadership, social justice, race/racism, sexual orientation, gender relations, religion and other systems of privilege or oppression, while also providing practical tips and strategies for combating inequality." In April, more than 900 very diverse participants came from across the country to Memphis to attend the 10th annual conference.
I was able to take nine extraordinary students, thanks to the financial support of the Santa Fe Community College Student Government Association. They were a very diverse racial, ethnic, and gender group: a white heterosexual man, three Hispanic/Mexicano men, an African American man, an African woman from Camaroon, two Hispanic women, and one white lesbian. All came from very different backgrounds but shared a thirst to expand their understanding of institutional oppressions and how best to address them. Each was actively engaged in the conference as well as seeing the city of Memphis, with all its fascinating history and racial flaws.
With over 80 different workshops at the conference, it was difficult to decide which ones to attend. Here are a few of the broad range of topics included:
There were brilliant speakers, including Tim Wise, whose latest compelling book is Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama, and Paul Kivel, author of two powerful books, Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, and You Call This a Democracy? Who Benefits, Who Pays, and Who Really Decides. Diverse films were also shown every night including Traces of the Trade: A Story of the Deep North, the story of the largest slave trading family in America--from Rhode Island.
All the students visited the National Civil Rights Museum, (which I still call the Lorraine Motel) where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated 41 years ago the weekend we were there. I was arrested that 1968 weekend, in Philadelphia with a small, peaceful demonstration supporting Dr. King's Poor People's March and the legislation they put forth to Congress to address the great chasm between rich and poor in our country.
What gives me great hope about the nine students I traveled with is what they've done since the conference. They were some of the key planners in a powerful youth-sponsored Leadership Conference back at Santa Fe Community College, with college students from all over New Mexico. Seven of the WPC students co-facilitated workshops on "White Privilege," "The Role of Youth in Ending Racism," and "Living in Harmony."
The seeds were planted in Memphis, but they're sprouting all over our state, and I couldn't be more proud or hopeful. Written and submitted by: Helen Heifer, a Jane Addams Peace Association board member and was an active member of WILPF's Cape Cod Branch from 2000--2005, co-chairing their Anti-Racism Task Force. Currently she is a part-time Sociology professor at the Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. In 2010 WPC will be in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and in 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Heifer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.