In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson put pen to paper and signed the Civil Rights Act into law. That same year, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in America and shared his vision for the future in his speech:
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
As we mark the 50 anniversary of this landmark legislation and reflect on the achievements and work ahead, it makes sense that more than 1500 activists, artists, scholars, historians, journalists, educators, politicians, and healthcare workers convened at Race Forward’s 2014 Facing Race national conference.
On Thursday, conference participants had an opportunity to tour Dallas before registration began. Since I took part in the private tour with Dance Exchange, I spent the day planning my schedule, leaning more about the speakers, and pouring over the program. On page 7, they make a point of sharing a useful and thorough set of ground rules, which I thought would be useful to share here for others doing this work:
In terms of racial and gender identity, Race Forward has cultivated a set of respectful and inclusive linguistic habits and shared how they navigate specific situations:
While not everyone at the conference adopted these habits, space was created to discuss the need for racial awareness and cultural sensitivity.
At 7:00pm, I headed to the opening ceremony. The 3-hour event opened with our conference weaver Soyinka Rahim who helped us ground our mind, body, and spirit in breath so that we could commit to the work more fully. Then, Rinku Sen (President and Executive Director or Race Forward and Publisher of Colorlines) and also Maria Yolisma Garcia (North Texas Dream Team) delivered a rousing welcome address. From there, we enjoyed a variety of performances: prayer song and drumming by the Bear Claw Drum Group and Darrell Blackbear; poetry and dance by Ashley Wilkerson and Michelle Gibson, an excerpt from a play, Santos: A Wandering Soul, present by Teatro Dallas; spoken word and live painting by Alejandro Perez, Will Richey, and David Rodriguez. The opening ceremony concluded with a special comedy performance by Hari Kondabolu.
Dance Exchange was also a part of the opening ceremony with an interactive presentation called, Find the Burning Question. This performance brings together the powerful work from the summer institute. The questions that still resonate with me are:
During this performance, we were reminded that the intergenerational aspect of the work around racial justice and equity is essential and sometimes overlooked. Also, that this work is on a continuum. Wherever you are right now is a good place to start. Finally, we were asked to consider what sustains or inspires us to move forward to build work towards racial justice. The entire ceremony was uplifting, affirming and inspiring. I left feeling invigorated and eager to take part in the conference.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!