SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than 75 people packed into the Dutcher Room at the Saratoga Springs Public Library on Saturday for a forum about racism.
The event, “Dismantling Racism: Understanding Race and Privilege,” was part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Weekend hosted by MLK Saratoga, a community organization.
“Every year it grows, because there’s a greater interest locally,” Hollyday Hammond, member of MLK Saratoga’s planning committee, said about the weekend. “There’s an increased dissatisfaction with current trends of our national leadership and an increased awareness to the injustice that was already there.
“That injustice woke up and activated a lot of people who didn’t realize what was going on.”
Hammond said hosting events on topics such as racism and injustice are the only way things will change moving forward.
“When we do the work together there’s less shame and more hope and energy,” she said. “We can become apathetic and say ‘there’s nothing I can do,’ but it’s easier to do the work together rather than alone.”
Jean Fei, a board member of the Albany Social Justice Center, facilitated Saturday’s racism forum and said attendees were interested in learning about white privilege.
“A lot of people want to learn how to talk to people who don’t believe that we’re in a racist society and don’t understand what privilege means,” she said. “They don’t want to insult someone.”
Fei added that she hopes conversations about racism continue in the future.
“I’m trying to make this place safer for our children, so they can live in the America we dream of,” she said.
Norah Brennan, a member of Saratoga Unites, attended the forum on behalf of the community organization, which advocates for equal rights and opportunities.
“I’ve been spending time thinking about privilege and finding ways to change my behavior,” she said. “One of my New Year’s resolutions is to only purchase books by authors of color.
“Economically it’s a way to put my money where my mouth is and support them financially.”
Brennan said she hopes people put effort into listening to people of color and those with less privilege to find ways to leverage their opportunities.
“We need to expand their privilege and opportunities, because only then will there be true equality in our society,” she said.
Saratoga Springs resident Richard Wilkinson said he attended the forum to expand his knowledge of the subject.
“What stuck with me is the exercise we did about reflecting on our own experiences confronting and understanding racism growing up,” he said. “Racism appeared to us even if we were too young to understand it.”
Wilkinson said he hopes a more diverse crowd attends similar events in the city in the future.
“Events like this help us interact with people we meet everyday,” he said. “Even those of us who proclaim we’re not racists have a lot to learn.
“We have a long way to go.”
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Weekend continues on Sunday in Saratoga Springs with “The New Poor People’s Campaign” presentation from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church, 24 Circular St., followed by a community dinner and live entertainment at 5:30 p.m.
For more information about the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Weekend schedule, visit www.mlksaratoga.org/celebration.