SCHENECTADY -- A coalition of community organizations across the Capital Region has announced plans for anti-racism training as the nation works to come to grips with a history of systematic racism.
The Capital Region Antiracism Training Initiative will kick off Monday, July 27, with a virtual event with Ibram X. Kendi, a professor at Boston University and author. His books include "How to Be an Antiracist," a current best-seller. The presentation will be carried on Proctors' revived public access channel.
Partners in the training effort, which will last into the fall, include the Junior League of Schenectady & Saratoga Counties, the Proctors Collaborative, Samaritan Counseling, United Way of the Greater Capital Region, and others. The Daily Gazette is a media partner.
The initiative is designed to help people learn about antiracism and how to combat racism, said Denise Murphy McGraw, president of the Junior League of Schenectady & Saratoga Counties. "The initiative seeks to provide robust interactive training with a variety of experts intended to cultivate your inner antiracist," she said.
The kickoff event, at 5:30 p.m. Monday, will be co-hosted by Murphy McGraw and Hayward Horton, professor of sociology at the University at Albany and president of the Association of Black Sociologists.
The event will be presented by Collaborative Studios -- a relaunching of Proctors public access channel. The event will be available on the Collaborative Studios channel in Albany and Schenectady (Spectrum Channel 1302 and Verizon Fios Channel 37) as well as on Collaborative Media's Facebook page and YouTube channel. It will also be available on-demand for two weeks on the cable channels.
One of the goals is to build on the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has gained new energy from the protests following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
"The Capital Region Antiracism Training Initiative is an important preliminary step in that process," Horton said. "It is hoped that we will present a model that can be replicated throughout the United States."
Portia Alston, first vice chairwoman of the Schenectady NAACP, is also on the organizing committee.
"In keeping with the mission of the NAACP, it is of utmost importance that we as a nation seek to secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons," Alston said. "Like the NAACP's mission, this antiracism collaboration is very timely, very necessary and will be inspiring to anyone who hears it and accepts the opportunity to participate."
Kendi recently became director of the Boston University Center for Antiracism Research. He has previously taught at several colleges, including SUNY-Oneonta and the University at Albany, and lectured widely.
Kendi has written for a number of publications and has appeared on television. He is the author of five books, including "How to Be an Antiracist" in 2019 and "Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America," which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2016.
"I'm a great admirer of his work, and we are honored and privileged to have him here," Horton said.
McGraw said she became interested in bringing antiracism education to the Capital Region after seeing Kendi give an antiracism presentation in Rochester last fall. "Obviously, the interest and energy around this grew after George Floyd," she said.
On July 1, she organized a book discussion with Kendi on Zoom that drew more than 300 participants, and further persuaded her of the interest in having a larger community discussion on race.
After the kickoff event, a 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge will launch on Aug. 10, in collaboration with the United Way chapter. It is designed to further the understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression and equity. Communities across the country have conducted the curriculum, which includes daily suggested readings, podcasts and videos on a variety of topics, including the formation and deepening of community connections.
The challenge was developed by Eddie Moore, director of The Privilege Institute and The National White Privilege Conference; author and educator Debby Irving; and Marguerite Penick-Parks, graduate coordinator for educational leadership and policy at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Communities around the country have conducted the curriculum, which includes daily suggestions for readings, podcasts, videos, observations and ways to form and deepen community connections.
After the 21-Day Challenge, an institute will be launched that will provide training on topics like antiracist parenting, health and mental health, clergy and congregations, artists and arts, civic leadership and education. Those sessions will also be available on Collaborative Studios' outlets.
Horton said that he has reviewed the curriculum and was impressed. "I think it's going to be a very good exercise and very good activity, but it's only a beginning," he said. "This country is in need of healing."
Horton said Floyd's death may have been the last straw for many, but history shows that all citizens have not been treated with respect and equality, and the country has to work to change that. "It is not enough not to be racist," he said. "You are either racist or you are antiracist."
Some of the additional partners include the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Foundation, NAACP Schenectady Chapter, Schenectady City School District, Schenectady Clergy Against Hate, SchenEquity, the YWCA-Northeastern, the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, the state Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health, and the Association for Marriage & Family Therapy -- New York Chapter.
Anyone interested in participating in any aspect of the initiative can sign up for an email newsletter at proctors.org/antiracism.