This past January, Sunfire met with our Easton Mountain Leadership Academy (EMLA) participants to share about his work in the 1960’s helping African-American people access their right to vote. The young adults were moved by his story. He finished his presentation with an invitation for interested EMLA graduates to join him at the White Privilege Conference. Three young people (Sabree Miller, Veronica Tannenbaum, and Miesha Hospedales) immediately expressed interest, and a few months later we were all en route to Philadelphia to participate in the conference. I’m very grateful to Sunfire for spearheading and sponsoring this initiative, which made a significant impact on all of us.
At the conference, we attended eye-opening and inspiring keynote speeches, participated in workshops and dialogues, enjoyed performances and meals together, and made new connections.
One of the major take-aways from the conference for me was the misperception that white guilt has any effectiveness in eradicating racism. Rather than holding onto white guilt, I discovered that bringing an awareness to my privilege, and my programmed biases, was a better place to start. With that deeper awareness, I am better able to make choices free of my biases, and more empowered to take action towards dismantling white supremacy.
I was so thrilled the EMLA graduates joined us, and so proud of the way they showed at the conference.
I witnessed the youth actively participating in group discussions, sharing their opinions and unique perspective as queer people experiencing the intersection of racism, transphobia, and homophobia. They also remarked on their excitement to bring the exercises they were experiencing back to Easton for future EMLA modules and Arts in the Woods camps so that the conversations happening at the conference can happen in their communities.
This weekend Sabree and Miesha were both back at Easton to volunteer at the Gay Men of African Descent retreat, and the three of us reflected on the conference. Sabree remarked, “I was surprised to see so many people come together to take a stand for change.” (The conference sold out at 2500 participants). Miesha added, “I saw that people really care about one another and want to make a change in the world.”
In discussing some of our workshop experiences Sabree noted, “I learned how to feel vulnerable with people I’d never met before and to find similarities instead of differences.” Miesha commented that “A lot of stuff happened to a lot of people that were similar to my experiences.”
I hope that these conversations continue to take place at Easton, so that we will find new ways to work toward our stated vision of "hospitality that welcomes all others as sisters and brothers."