Yesterday, the Austin Renaissance Council hosted a symposium on racial reconciliation at the Kehrein Center for the Arts at Catalyst Circle Rock. Austin native Resheeda Washington, a non-profit leader, author, and educator, moderated the symposium, which was live streamed on Facebook and YouTube (linked below).
The symposium focused on issues of equity, inclusion, and reconciliation around two of the seven issue areas of Austin’s Quality of Life plan: Youth Empowerment and Community Narrative. The Symposium opened with a message by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, followed by a conversation with Candace Moore, Chief Equity officer for the City of Chicago (pictured below). “I’m really excited that one focus of this Symposium is on our young people,” said Moore, “we have to be talking about the arc of our history both past, present, and future. We have to talk about our future and our young people carrying on the work of the seeds that have already been planted.”
A youth panel, moderated by Miki Grace, discussed issues of equity, inclusion, and the dreams of young people today. The panel included seven youth panelists from various organizations. Grace noted that “Young adults of color have the least amount of access to the most valuable advice,” and then asked the panelists: “What is the most valuable career-related advice you have received?” Dearra Williams responded: “It doesn’t have to be this way. You can deconstruct the way things are and make things the way you want them to be.”
Illinois State Representative La Shawn Ford joined for a live interview of his efforts to put a pause on teaching history in schools. Ford compared the current teaching of history to some children in Austin being forced to drink contaminated water: “The history lessons that we teach our children – whether they’re black, brown, or white – they’re contaminated; they’re biased, they’re racist, and they make one person superior over others. My thought is we should put a moratorium on the teaching of history in our schools, especially now the we know this teaching of history is contaminated. Why do we continue to do it? We believe we should stop the current teaching of history and teach civics until we can improve the current standards of teaching history and improve the curriculum.”
Symposium Committee Chair Vanessa Stokes commented that “In order for us to get to equity, we need to reconcile. We need to really look at how we got here and begin to really heal from that. There’s a lot of things that have happened in our communities that we don’t even know about. That’s part of the reconciliation: to really get what it is that African-descended people have gone through in this country.”
The full Symposium is available on YouTube: Symposium on Racial Reconciliation