Conference in Bemidji Looks at Overcoming Racism and Dismantling White Supremacy
According to World Population Review, 79% of Bemidji’s population are white, 13.2% are Native American, less than 1% are Black or African American, and around 1% are Asian. With that, the Overcoming Racism: Dismantling White Supremacy conference is a topic that the community can both learn and gain a deeper understanding for people of color.
“The Overcoming Racism conference was started by the facilitating racial equity collaborative based out of the [Twin] Cities, and this year was the first year that they wanted to do pilot or satellite conferences in outstate Minnesota or more rural communities, and so we decided to try it in Bemidji this year. The purpose is to increase skills, increase your knowledge, and to learn how to better work across cultural differences as well as build relationships with other people in the community,” said Ashley Charwood, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Planning Committee.
The conference allowed attendees to gain a better understanding of how to not only understand people of color on a deeper level and what can be done to help, but it also gave real-life scenarios that people of color face day-to-day and why those certain situations affect people of color.
“For myself as a person of color who grew up in Bemidji, there’s a lot of strengths in our community but there’s a lot of disparities, and so by having conferences with breakout sessions with some of the topics we have, it’s an opportunity for people to lean in to any discomfort to figure out how they can do some work to dismantle some of the inequities that they see individually or in their organization and hopefully create new ways of doing things, create new polices, create new programs that better the need of the whole community,” said Charwood.
“As a Native person who grew up here and as a Native person who’s worked in the community with other Native people, it’s very, very important to educate people about who we are, what our culture is, what our spirituality is, and to help make understanding but also put forth what are real histories are,” said volunteer Pamela St. Pierre.
The conference included a live Facebook stream, group discussions and breakout sessions that discussed topics such as anti-based Education and white Supremacy.
“It’s important because white supremacy is a product of white people and white heritage goes as far as in our genetics and so how to understand how nature and nurture produced the culture that we at the conference are trying to dismantle.” said breakout session leader Magie Baumgartner.
The conference ended with a Closing Panel Conversation that identified priorities and sharing inspiration for taking action to better serve everyone in the community.
If anyone is interested in being a part of or planning next year’s conference, you can reach out to Peacemaker Resources or the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.