ARA National Conference addresses racism, bigotry

Christina Stavale

New Orleans native Greg Griffith gets involved in the discussion at the Anti-Racism for Collective Liberation workshop in the Student Center. CAITLIN PRARAT DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Dan Kloock

Students and activists from across the country came together this weekend for the Anti-Racist Action National Conference, held and hosted by Kent State’s ARA chapter.

Though racism today may not be as overt as it once was, workshops and discussions made it clear that the issue is still just as important.

“Today, it’s still there — it’s just not out in the open, and that makes it harder to fight against,” said Katie Troha, junior applied conflict management major and ARA member.

The conference continues today, with workshops on issues including homophobia and women’s liberation. Tonight, the conference will culminate with a march against police brutality and Harambee’s Rally Against Racism.

The rally is in response to racial tensions on campus this year. Harambee President Ladon Neal said Harambee is all about expressing oneself through culture, and things such as music “can heal a community.”

Student leaders from KSU-NAACP, ARA, PRIDE!Kent, Black United Students and Save the World will be speaking at the event. Musicians and poets will also perform.

The police brutality march, which will begin at the corner of Lincoln and Main streets, coincides with the National Day Against Police Brutality. This is something Kent ARA member Ben Cohen said he has seen as a problem in Kent.

“It criminalizes people of color, youth and poor people by putting power into the hands of a few elite people,” he said.

Cohen, a senior general studies major, also helped present a workshop this weekend on sexual assault.

In it, he outlined things to do and not to do when talking with survivors of sexual assault.

“Let the survivor decide what will be done,” he said. “Do not expect the survivor to get over it.”

Through discussing different scenarios, the group came up with a definition of rape that can include the inability to give consent, badgering, threat, coercion and drugging, and it can still happen during marriage or a long-term relationship.

Josh Ehrlich and Uma Kirkwood, both of Cleveland, who have done work in anti-racism presented another workshop titled “Anti-Racism for Collective Liberation.”

They attacked the issue by defining a racist as “one who both privileges and socializes on the basis of race by a white supremacist system.”

“As white people, we’re socialized to be racist,” she said. “Part of being anti-racist is challenging this system.”

She outlined the history of racism and the term “white,” and said the first time a race was created in the United States was through slave codes.

The group then turned to a discussion of racism today.

“To this day, there are legal, illegal and informal policies that keep jobs open to only white people,” Ehrlich said.

He discussed how institutions such as the media, military, and legal and education systems all contain traces of racism.

Kirkwood asked the group to consider things such as acting on one’s own principles and creating an anti-racist culture of resistance when establishing an anti-racist agenda.

Other topics discussed at this weekend’s workshops included capitalism, immigration, medical information for protests, and the Toledo riots of 2005.

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].


Today’s ARA National Conference events

-Student Center, Room 315:

10 a.m. Homophobia workshop

11 a.m. Women’s Liberation workshop

12 p.m. Tampaction workshop

-Corner of Lincoln and Main:

6 p.m. March Against Police Brutality

-KSC Ballroom:

7 p.m. Rally Against Racism