Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation Conference
By: Stevanie Williams
On Friday, January 19th, I was blessed to be chosen to attend the "Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation"(TRHT) conference sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). This conference was designed to assist TRHT Campus Center teams and individual guests in developing transformative Action Plans to advance racial healing. I was appointed to be the Community Partner advocate for our theater company, WombWork Productions, Inc. in collaboration with University of Maryland Baltimore County's Shriver Center. UMBC's Shriver center addresses critical social challenges by bridging campus and community through engaged scholarship and applied learning. Faculty and students who have chosen to do this work have come to WombWork seeing us as a representation and a voice for the community. AAC&U is a sector partner in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's TRHT effort, a national, community based process to engage people in racial healing and to catalyze efforts to address inequities grounded in the belief of racial hierarchies in this case, on college campuses around the country. To address the top leaders in administration of each institution and educate them on racial equity.
I had the pleasure of traveling to D.C. with my new friend and colleague Marvin Roxas who would also be attending part of the conference, and what a ride it was. Very relaxing and informative as we got to discuss our lives, past, present and future. We arrived in Georgetown to the wonderful Westin hotel in our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. and were happily greeted by the UMBC team. Already hard at work but inviting with smiles and firm hugs were Frank Anderson, Assistant Director of the Shriver Center, Eric Ford, Director of Operations, Sherella Cupid, Doctoral Student in Language, Literacy and Culture and the fastest note taker I've ever met. And Jasir , Undergrad student. Later I would also meet Jordan Harper, Interdisciplinary Studies Major. I checked in, received my credentials, and went to my illustrious room! Great accomodations. I was so excited, and nervous, but ready. I return to the lobby, join the team and move to the Washington Conference room. Together we would take on this conference to see what it has to offer. We jump in engaged and ready for the weekend's events!
As we enter the Washington room we meet teams representing college campuses, organizations, and communities from around the nation. We would get seats in the front, Baltimore style (lol) and get settled for the afternoon/evening events. We were greeted by the faculty and facilitators of AAC&U and the TRHT team. They explained goals and objectives for the weekend. That there would be healing circles and workshops to open up each individual to the work surrounding TRHT, team time to pull together a plan of action for each institution represented, and meals provided to give space to nourish the body and network!
Next we would experience a performance from award-winning actress, producer and educator Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni. This one woman show entitled "One Drop of Love" is a multi-media, audience participatory show exploring the intersections of race, class, gender, justice, and love. It is also her personal story and shines the light on interracial relationships. She expresses the challenges of being raised in a bi-racial, multi-cultural family, the curse of having to identify and be classified as one race or ethnicity, and the glory of finding love. Fanshen's story and performance opened up the atmosphere and made it free for conversation and acknowledgement of the issues surrounding race, class, gender, and how those componets have an effect on our justice system and has conditioned specific races to systematic love. Meeting Fanshen and her brother was an honor, and her performance was informative, awakening and inspiring. This show is definitely a must see.
After our amazing show experience it was time for dinner. Even though I can never guess which one is the salad fork and which one is the dinner fork, I was able to eat to my hearts content. During dinner, I had the pleasure of meeting the team hired to film the conference, Evolved Cinema. Leading that team was Hunter Hughes, director/cinematographer, University of Atlanta graduate in film, music production and interracial studies. I was also able to meet and chat with Omar Harbison, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success. for AAC&U. who also gave me tickets to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That experience is another blog in itself. We exchanged cards and contact information and I was able to give info about WombWork and our collaboration with UMBC's Shiver Center. How we are working together to learn, explore, and educate on the issues surrounding race in various creative collaborations.
The atmosphere was charged. Everyone in attendance is there for the same cause and ready to be informed and get to work.
After dinner, I was beat. It was time to retire to my room and rest up for Saturday's workshops!
Saturday was filled with workshops and continued conversations on topics surrounding Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation. The day would prove not to be just about facts and statistics but engaging and being a part of the work. Our day started with being separated into groups to experience Healing Circles. A healing circle helps to aid in preventing reactive communication. It encourages deeper listening and reflection in conversation. For TRHT healing circles provide a means for people who are prohibited from talking to one another be cause of social and cultural differences, a chance to speak and be heard. We were showed how to conduct the circle, to respect silence and speak our own truths. We were able to share our personal stories, triumphs and failures and how it all came to relate to our differences in race.
The rest of the day was filled with workshops on Implicit Bias, Curating and Healing the community, Cultural Connections and Academic Success, and Racial Hierarchies on college campuses. Each giving pertinent information and strategies to use when having conversations about racial inequity on college campuses, and how to be proactive in creating true transformation. Each providing a chance to have dialogue with my fellow conference attendees about the information shared with us. I was a wet sponge soaked with information. Later my UMBC family and I would get together and debrief about the day and start to put our Action Plan into motion. Sadly I would be leaving Sunday but my fellow co-worker and Operations and Development Manager, Marvin Roxas, would come on Sunday to take my place on the team.
By: Marvin Roxas
On Sunday I arrived at the Westin and met up with the UMBC team. I instantly started working on the TRHT Campus Center Action Plan that integrated the goals necessary to actualize the TRHT Campus Center's vision, action steps, intended outcomes, evaluation strategies, engagement plans, and sustainable visions concerning how to continue partnerships and projects. The team stayed up late on Sunday night in order to put together a usable action plan that would involve partnering with WombWork Productions, Inc. as a community partner alongside The Shriver Center, The Choice Program, and UMBC's student population.
Knowing that one of the weak points in smaller programs and organizations involves monitoring and evaluation, I attended the breakout Evaluation Presentation workshop by Jessica Estevez, Edwin Estevez, and Jim Zahniser. The presentation discussed how to qualify evaluative methods and distinguish between summative vs. formative evaluations. Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to network with other education facilitators scattered throughout the country who wanted to learn more about this work. I remember smiling during a conversation with a woman who very well have been describing their version of WombWork Productions, Inc. in her home state and a partnership with a local university.
Towards the end of my time at this conference, I discussed with Frank and the UMBC team of ways that we could help one another and grow together in a tangible community model that blends together the virtues, healing circles, theatre arts instruction, and racial/cultural healing.