Facing Race Reflection

I’d like to thank Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy for giving me the opportunity to attend this wonderful conference, and allowing me to connect with so many individuals across the nation that are interested in making a change. This conference remarkably fell at the right time, and served as a place of solace for individuals who were stunned and disturbed by the United States of America Presidential Election.

The 2016 Facing Race conference defined itself as “A unique collaborative space for racial justice movement making, Facing Race is the largest multiracial, inter-generational gathering for organizers, educators, creatives and other leaders.”

While at the conference I attended two very unique sessions. One of the sessions was The Performing Justice Project: Facing Race with Youth and Communities. The Performing Justice Project offers a participatory model for devising critically engaged performance work for young adults. In this interactive session, participants experienced how the Performing Justice Project uses theatre, storytelling, creative writing, movement, and technology as tools for enacting and performing gender and racial justice. The session offered a brief introduction to the Performing Justice Project, including previous performance work created with schools, foster care facilities, and juvenile justice centers. Following a process in which participants work together to create and share their own short performance collages, the group will discuss critical questions and challenges that arise when exploring gender and racial justice with youth and communities. The take away from this session was how the arts can really encourage inclusiveness, honesty, creativity, and overall creating a space to have the dialog.

The other session that I attended, that really left an impression and has made me rethink how I fund different nonprofits, etc.. in the community. The name of the session was Black Trans Everything!: Cultivating a Culture of Resilience. The session concentrated on how Black Trans people have been the targets of intimate partner, stranger-based, and state violence for a long time. It discussed how there has been recent heightened exposure of this violence, as highlighted through the expansiveness of Black Lives Matter! Movements, through national trans liberation days, and even through mainstream media. The presenters stated that the conversation however, rarely includes the resiliency of Black Trans people. The wealth of resilience strategies and healing tools of Black Trans people was the focus of this session. Their goal was for participants will leave with a "medicine bag" of tools. The workshop will included making a collective altar and tribute to our trancestors, a self-love selfies photo booth where people can post their pics on an Instagram account that we create, a short presentation about Atlanta's Pre-Arrest Diversion program, and creating a "medicine bag" of healing tools and resilience strategies that will be collected and emailed out later. My take away from this session was to really break up sections from my Request for Proposals, and insert very focused initiatives that would address a certain issue, need, or concern. An example of this as it pertains to the Black Trans Everything session is, if I’m funding a Nonprofit or Community based clinic that focuses on the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered Community, I will no longer just give the funds to support the entire LGBT community. Moving forward, I will request a second proposal/ narrative that supports the Transgendered Community. This is honestly the second time over the past couple of months that I’ve been informed that the funds aren’t really being used to support Transgendered issues in the areas of counseling, housing assistance, etc...

Something that really stuck out to me during this conference was how open attendees of the conference were to share their thoughts and ideas. I was so shocked by how enormous the conference was, yet there was this sense of inclusion that resonated throughout the conference. I believe that the sessions really added to the atmosphere by having material that you could relate to, and be able to take something away, that could be useful in your personal life or job.

This was a great conference to really engage with other individuals that were passionate and eager to do the work that will move the needle, continue and broaden the conversations, that will add to the movement of making a better and more inclusive nation. In close, I would like to thank all of the delegation members that attended this conference in Atlanta. I really enjoyed the exchange of thoughts, inquiries, and feedback that we engaged in at the dinner Friday night. I look forward to engaging with you all again, and please keep me in mind for any of the projects we discussed.


Erick Abernathy MEd, CGW

University of Kansas Hospital