Anti-racism workshop teaches tactics to fight oppression in community
Approximately 65 University of Massachusetts students and Amherst community members gathered in the Cape Cod Lounge on Feb. 24 to take part in an anti-racism workshop, designed to educate and arm the community with tactics to fight the oppression of minority groups.
The workshop, titled “Tools for Collective Liberation: Advancing Economic Justice Through Multi-Racial Solidarity” was organized by students in the Social Thought and Political Economy Program (STPEC) and Divest UMass, and ran from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“It feels great to see so many people here wanting to engage with one another, hear each other’s stories and really learn how we can be in solidarity with each other. It’s really encouraging to see,” said Brock Parent, a junior double major in STPEC and anthropology who helped organize the workshop.
The event was led by Esteban Kelly, the executive director for the United States Federation of Workers Cooperatives and founder of the Anti-Oppression Resource & Training Alliance (AORTA).
“I think [over 60 students attending the workshop] is indicative of the moment that we’re in right now; people are paying attention and are mobilized. Some of it is that they’re nervous and that they’re afraid,” said Kelly.
Kelly discussed concepts such as the connections among islamophobia, xenophobia and racism, and practical approaches to ally-ship and solidarity in the community. He noted the importance of inclusion and acceptance of people even if they do not have the same views as you or are part of the same political party.
The workshop was a continuation of the panel “Visions Beyond Trump: Building Solidarity Networks and Economies” that was be held by Divest UMass the day before.
“I think the most important thing is to keep in mind that while we’re tapped in and plugged in to the high profile resistance movements and being defensive and taking care of one another, to not forget to look out for the less flashy work of building the new,” said Kelly.
Several times the attendees split up into groups to discuss with each other how they planned to apply the lessons taught in the real world.
“This here today is more of a practical approach…this is about really learning how we can build our communities, because you need more than just ideas. You need tools, you need skills,” said Parent. “In these times it’s really important to know how to build these communities and protect one another, and really stand in solidarity with each other.”
STPEC is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in social and behavioral sciences at UMass, in which students aim to critically examine society and to develop their own capacities for critical reading, writing and thinking.
Divest UMass is a student organization fighting for climate change by demanding that the University divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in renewable energy companies that do not perpetuate systems of oppression.
According to a pamphlet distributed by the organizers, AORTA is “a worker co-op whose consulting supports organizations fighting for social justice and a solidarity economy.”
“I’m hoping that we can start to build a community here that’s willing to take care of each other, willing to stand up for each other and has both the visions and practical tools to be able to do that,” said Parent.
Stefan Geller can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @StefanGeller.