I am Sophia from Middlebury, Vermont and a junior at Ithaca College. I am a racial justice and peacework summer intern here at the Peace & Justice Center. Before my internship started, I was asked to attend a Building Empathy and Addressing Racial Oppression workshop in Essex. I went in expecting it to be a lecture style class, where they would give us information, we would fill out worksheets and have a couple discussions, however it didn’t turn out to be that way. The 3 part workshop was largely discussion based and pretty flexible to the needs of everybody in the room. This was meaningful to me, because in my experience, whether in classes or groups, there have been a lot of times when it is a lecture about racism, which is important, but also doesn’t allow people to ask clarifying questions that could be extremely important to them addressing racism in their own lives. Also, a lot of times, the lectures, classes, or discussions are addressed to a specific group of people who are intended to know vocabulary and such, which isn’t always the case and may silence those who might not be as familiar. To my pleasant surprise, there was a large group of people, from all different backgrounds and identities, which gave a lot more perspective to the conversation. It seemed like we were all there because we genuinely wanted to learn and talk about racism, generally and locally.
The facilitators were welcoming and encouraged thoughtful discussion as well as created a space where I personally felt I was able to openly share experiences, thoughts, ideas, and questions, which I think is really important for a workshop like this. In my experience, in spaces where people feel they can be more open, there is a lot more room for advancing knowledge and conversation. Especially when some people may be on completely different levels of comprehending and talking about racism. The workshops had many opportunities for small group discussions where we could practice talking about and confronting racism, as well as being able to bounce ideas off of each other in a smaller setting. One of the workshop days included an activity which involved going outside and moving around, this was a nice way to split up the sessions so we weren’t sitting for the whole time. Overall, this workshop was definitely a good experience, and I think anyone, regardless of your experience or knowledge about racism would have something to learn. This is also a good way to make connections with others in your community who are interested in taking on racism in the community and building collaboration!
By Sophia Abdul Sater