Facing Race and Power Summit:
Shaping a Renaissance of Equality
Silver Spring, Maryland was the site of the “Facing Race and Power” Summit, sponsored by ACTS’ national affiliate, Gamaliel. More than 160 people gathered from June 19th-21st to address racial injustices, visit lawmakers, and launch a rally at the Capitol District. Of those 160 people, three from ACTS were present: ACTS President David Babcock and two young men; Dominique Donnay, and Nas’zeik Metts. The Summit testified together that structural racism remains rampant.
“Racism in conjunction with white privilege is, I think, the most important challenge we need to face. But, too many of us whites are regrettably not facing it,” said David.
“As a high school student in Syracuse, I am surrounded by prejudice,” said Dominique, a member of the ACTS Youth Council, “people rarely take [minority people] seriously, and think we are never good enough to [accomplish] what is asked of us.”
From the individual struggles of young people, to the plight of entire neighborhoods, examples of prejudice are commonplace in thousands of communities across the country. Yet, these issues are minimized to such degrees that many are unaware of their severity. Even some who are members of minority communities themselves underestimate the deep consequences.
“The Race and Power Summit opened my eyes. I never truly knew how many African Americans still experience racism, and I never thought white privilege would still be a thing,” said Nas’zeik, another member of the ACTS Youth Council.
Indeed, racism and its power-structures are pervasive enough that even at the Summit, stereotypes held by some warranted entire group discussions.
“There was a privileged statement by a white participant at the Summit that was understood by some people of color in an [unfavorable] context. The Summit shifted effectively to deal with the incident, but wow, I did not expect that to happen at a Gamaliel event,” said David.
Such exposures are helpful long-term, however, as unearthing harmful or misinformed notions in otherwise well-meaning people advances the tumultuous conversation on race. Compassionate rebukes to prejudice therefore remain the “silver bullets.” The Summit provided useful opportunities to experience different organizing tools and also showcased the dialogue tactic of “one-on-one’s,” also a staple technique of ACTS, to help encourage such breakthroughs.
“One-on-ones are a wonderful tool to enhance connections and to ask each other questions that will be life-changing. We need to form relationships with others that are different from ourselves,” concluded David.
Through Summits like these, both ACTS and Gamaliel fulfill their mission to train future social justice leaders. For Dominique and Nas’zeik, the experience inspired their ideas on how we could address racial prejudice back in Syracuse.
“I think ACTS can help Syracuse become a more equitable place for people of all backgrounds by getting more youth involved. ACTS should host some type of “Welcome” event for [diverse people] in the Syracuse community. This could also attract young minds to the Youth Council,” they said.
At the US Capitol, the Summit promised their gathering would spark a small Renaissance of equality in each of their home cities. The 160 people each found someone with a different skin color and locked their arms together. An unbroken, united ring of people formed across the greenery of Washington D.C. Within that ring, there was hope that America would topple prejudice, one mind and heart at a time.
“Don’t be a coward. Face race and power,” they chanted in unison.
Afterwards, the three from ACTS went to Congressman Katko’s office where they had a healthy exchange with the Congressman and one of his aides.