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Facing Race – Khatira Darvesh

Walking into the hotel and seeing so many people both young and old, men and women of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds all of a sudden made me very nostalgic for my high school. I went to a very diverse high school so it was not a piece of cake adjusting to life on campus at University of Richmond. But with the help from OMA and my Pre-O friends I found my own space on campus. I got used to the life on campus and forgot about my high school until I was sitting in a huge room with 1600 people who at some point in their lives had to struggle with the same issues that I have, people who would understand why I am attending a conference about fighting racism; because isn’t racism over? Didn’t we win the Civil War? Don’t we have the right to vote? Shouldn’t we stop talking about race now?

The answer is NO. We might have legal rights but race is still a definite issue even today just by the fact that most people think of race as everything else but white. When we talk about race we never talk about the predominant white race. When we talk about diversity or culture no one talks about it.

When JP offered the opportunity to go to the Facing Race conference I thought it was a very neat idea.  The conference exceeded my expectations on many levels.

Each day of the conference we attended an opening session with everyone, followed by small sessions and a closing session. The opening panel talked about race, gender, and how to fight racism and how to talk about racism with other people. The small sessions held groups of about 30-40 people in small rooms where a panel talked about different topics. I went to a session where they talked about strategies in how to talk effectively to and reach the white people about racism and white supremacy. The panelist went on to talk about the difference between diversity-getting people in the room and equity-everyone in the room has a chance to participate. They talked about how diversity is not enough and that we need and should demand equity. Some of the other sessions talked about the intersectionality of race with other identities, interracial dating and strategies on how to engage the white community into advocating for racial justice.

Even though I was one of the youngest and the least experienced in most of these sessions, I didn’t feel left out. I felt comfortable talking to them because they understood and shared my experiences. As a result I met many activists and made connections such as an ambassador who works for People for the American Way Foundation. She told me about the Front Line Leaders Academy which is a leadership development program offers training for young leaders and activists. I think this a great opportunity for me and I am intending to apply.

Being a part of this conference made me realize something that I haven’t really thought about before. It made me realize how much I missed being amongst a crowd where I truly felt like I belonged not just because I am a minority but also because I was with the people who cared for the same issues as I did.  I had forgotten how it felt to walk into a room and really feel like you belonged in there and that no one can tell you otherwise. It made me feel at home. I know that attending the Facing Race conference was an opportunity that not everyone had the chance to attend. I am very great full for JP and OMA and the sponsors for giving me the chance to be a part something important. The Facing Race conference was truly a very enriching experience for me.




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