Grow Hartford Undoing Racism Workshop Reflection

Thanks to Perrin Family Foundation’s mini-grant, some Grow Hartford members were able to attend an Undoing Racism workshop in New York City over the weekend of Friday, December 5th. Grow Hartford members Nick Furlow-Alfred, Omyra Lockhart, Kevon Johnson, Navina Vemuri and Liz Castle participated in a weekend-long journey of deep transformative change. Hosted and facilitated by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, the Undoing Racism workshop focuses on a comprehensive exploration of how racism shapes American Institutions and how without our conscious understanding we are all perpetuating racism on an individual and system level.

Given the agenda-free, people driven, nature of the workshop, we were able to engage in real conversations around racism. We started off by analyzing our own socializations of racism, de-constructed institutions that function on racist practices, discovered how we are perpetrators of keeping people of color oppressed, defined racism, explored our internalized inferiorities and superiorities, and learned  a comprehensive history of racism.

Nick left the workshop feeling like he had just taken a breath of fresh air with all the new information he gathered. “I learned a ton, so much I cannot tell all in this one reflection. The main thing I walked away with was a solid definition of ‘Racism,’ which was A specious classification of human beings created by the White Europeans for the purpose of assigning work and value establishing white as the standard of humanity for the purpose of establishing and maintaining power + privilege. The workshop has helped me feel more comfortable when I am having conversations about race at school, and with my fellow classmates. It made me think about how I have to change the food system while working with Grow Hartford, and defeat the racial norms it has. It made me think about how even the smallest decisions some teachers make can be because of them being prejudice against the reaction of people of color. I am taking away a clear understanding of what racism truly is.”

After the workshop, Navina felt like a veil had been lifted from her head: “The way we have been socialized to perpetuate racism in our society is dumbfounding. We unconsciously use racist figures of speech and phrases that maintain the superiority of white folks and inferiority of black folks. We have found ways to name disparities in our society not for what they are (racist institutions); instead we use language that covers this inherent fault in our institutions. The workshop provided such a clear and systemic analysis of racism that I felt hurt and betrayed by our society for not having been taught these connections while growing up.”

Kevon particularly enjoyed how welcoming the workshop was to young people, “It made me feel comfortable to be a part of the workshop and feel more intentional to get involved and share what I’m there for and give my input on ideas. At this workshop I learned that the system comes up with many different names for poor Black people and other poor people, except for white people. I also learned that there are way more white poor people in the United States that are participating in SNAP than there are Black people. I was surprised by that because normally when you hear SNAP benefits you think of Black and Latino people.”

The Undoing Racism workshop pushed us to meet our “growing edge”. We all learned to think of racism in the way that society today doesn’t want us to think. With this new knowledge and analysis we will spread the conversation to the rest of Grow Hartford, our families and peers. Our journey to undoing racism has just begun!