Race Matters: Continuing Conversations reconvenes on MLK Day

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Facilitators Ray Lee (center) and Beverly White (right) lead a discussion group at the Summit on Race Matters in November. Rachel Kelly and others shared experiences and ideas.
Facilitators Ray Lee (center) and Beverly White (right) lead a discussion group at the Summit on Race Matters in November. Rachel Kelly and others shared experiences and ideas.

As part of a continuing effort to improve racial understanding in the Greenbrier Valley, Race Matters: Continuing Conversations will meet on Monday, Jan. 18 in the Lewisburg United Methodist Church at 2 p.m., immediately following the Martin Luther King Day celebration. The purpose of the meeting is to create Action Groups that will begin to formulate and implement specific goals in the areas of education, employment and systemic racism. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

In November 2015, a summit was held at New River Community and Technical College to begin constructive, in-depth conversations about the complicated history of race relations and racial inequality in West Virginia. A diverse group of approximately 150 people attended. The event included a panel presentation, keynote speakers, the screening of clips from “Cracking the Codes: Social Determinants of Racial Inequality” by Shakti Butler, and small group discussions. The conversation focused on internalized racism, behavioral patterns that people employ without consciously intending to be racist. For example, one segment of “Cracking the Codes” presented how the type of service that people are extended in stores can be affected by internalized attitudes: a shop person may follow a person of color more closely to protect against shoplifting or a clerk may ask for extra identification when accepting the check of a darker skinned person. Attendees were encouraged to share their own experiences in order to create awareness and eliminate these types of unconscious actions.

The meeting on Jan. 18 is the next step in working toward to general goal of helping West Virginians see race through a new lens of racial understanding. Monthly programs will be held throughout the year. Many of these programs will consist of a community potluck dinner, speaker, and open discussion. Steering committee member Loretta Young stated, “Sharing a meal has traditionally been an important symbol of fellowship. We are hoping to start breaking down the racial wall by breaking bread together.”

For more information contact Courtney Smith, 304-645-5620, info@gvfoundation.org or “like” the event on Facebook www.facebook.com/events/844389509009733/ and spread the word about this exciting and important program.