Sunfire Reports on the White Privilege Conference

Wil and EMLA Grads
Wil and EMLA Grads

If you've been following my posts on Facebook, you know that last weekend Wil Fisher and I, along with three graduates of the Easton Mountain Leadership Academy (EMLA) were among the two-thousand five hundred people who attended the White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia this past weekend. Here's a photo I took of Wil and the graduates just after we arrived in Philadelphia.

What is the White Privilege Conference? In the organizers' own words: "WPC is a conference that examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team building strategies to work toward a more equitable world." This year's conference was the seventeenth annual gathering, with the opening and first keynote address on Friday morning, and the last event late Sunday afternoon. It was the first such conference to be held in an east-coast city.

That first plenary session, which included a speech by a mother who's son had been gunned down by the police, left me feeling down. In the next time slot, we had a choice of twenty-six workshops. I selected "Why Whites Love/Hate Hip Hop," presented by Frederick Gooding, who teaches at a western university and uses hip hop in his classes. Early in the session, he told us "When I say 'hip.' you say 'hop.'" He played a recorded beat. We spontaneously stood up, and swayed to the chant of "hip hop hip hop hip hop." My down mood vanished.

There were many movements during the weekend that I felt despair - and then something as simple as a black man leading us in a hip hop chant would lift my spirit.

A few weeks before, I had told Freddy Freeman that I wanted to present something about black music, from the blues to modern times, at the start of the Easton Mountain Music Academy this fall. I knew I would start with the blues. This weekend, I realized I needed to end with hip hop. I've asked Sabree, an EMLA graduate, (seated right in the photo above) to present this program with me.

On the way to the conference, while I was riding on Amtrak through miles and miles of industrial buildings, many abandoned and disintegrating, I remarked to Wil, "New Jersey calls itself, 'The Garden State'!"

Abandoned warehouse
Abandoned warehouse

As I rode back on Sunday, I saw the abandoned buildings as a product of white privilege - the privilege to destroy our planet in the name of an economy that only serves the rich and leaves the rest of us to contemplate the ruins. There's a theme for a hip hop artist!

Watch for Wil's report on his experience of the White Privilege Conference.