The Rev. Willard Bass of the Institute for Dismantling Racism led the Anti-Racism breakout session. Bass began the workshop by inviting members to introduce themselves and share with the group why they chose to attend the session. Many members expressed a desire to better understand how to break down racial barriers in their home congregations and communities.
Bass shared the importance of creating safe spaces when having intentional conversations surrounding issues of racism. He stressed the importance of inviting in all voices, providing everyone the opportunity to share their stories with others. The members attending the workshop agreed to uphold a covenant, which called on them to create an honest space and to engage in active listening, mutual respect, and a loving attitude.
When discussing the topic of racism, Bass first asked members to think about words that come to mind when they hear the word “culture.” They acknowledged how culture consists of a sum of collective experiences, traditions, and expectations. After defining culture, members shared various sources of culture, such as family, religion, geography, economic status, gender, nationality, ethnicity, and race.
After gaining a greater understanding of culture and its significance, members broke into small groups to discuss where they received culture and what that culture taught them about racism.
Jacob Seate, Capital District, shared how he moved from an elementary school where he was in the minority as a white student to a school where the students had segregated themselves in the cafeteria. It showed him how culture influences perceptions of race, something he hadn’t previously experienced.
At the conclusion of the breakout, Bass shared that plans are in the works to hold a training session to further equip members to break down the barriers of structural racism in their own congregations and communities.