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WSW: Making People "Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable" About Race

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The executive director of the Society for History and Racial Equity says a few years ago organizers of the annual Summit on Racism in Kalamazoo were happy to get 50 people. Donna Odom says the event has grown, and this year will be a full-day event. 

SHARE’s Racial Healing Initiative is holding this year’s Summit on Racism Friday November 18th at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Odom says the response is encouraging. She says recent events, including last week’s election may have left people looking for answers. Odom says “We obviously don’t have all the answers.” But Odom says she hopes the summit may give people ideas on how to get involved. 

"We often feel like we're preaching to the choir, right now that choir needs a lot of rehearsing."

Before this year’s summit, Odom, says a survey was sent out. She says the results were shared with the moderators. Odom says most people want to find a way to take some kind of action. Although registration has closed, Odom says the morning session is in a large room. She says it should accommodate anyone who wants to attend.

Odom says the goal of the racism summit and SHARE’s other events is to for people to get comfortable talking about race. But “We want you to be comfortable, feeling uncomfortable.” Odom says the issue of race doesn’t make people feel warm and fuzzy, “but we have to talk about them.”

Asked about getting the message about race to a broader audience, Odom says “we often feel like we’re preaching to the choir, right now that choir needs a lot of rehearsing.” She says people need to be encouraged to reach out and try to bring someone else into the fold. But Odom says it’s not easy.

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