By Lori Kaplan
President & CEO
Latin American Youth Center
Editor’s Note: Since WRAG began releasing the Putting Racism on the Table Learning Series videos in spring 2016, we have learned that a number of philanthropic and nonprofit organizations in the region and across the country are using the materials to spark new conversations and inform their own work around racism and racial equity. Today, Lori Kaplan writes about how the Latin American Youth Center has engaged with the Putting Racism on the Table resources.
For some time now, the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) has recognized that we cannot take our diversity for granted and that we have to take a deeper dive on issues related to ending racism and bigotry. We need to bring the difficult conversations into our own space. The 2016 election has ignited this urgency as the national conversation has left our youth and staff feeling angry, frustrated, and scared. The new administration brings to the forefront questions about what life will look like over the next four or more years, for ourselves and our youth and families, our children and the nation as a whole. The LAYC has both the opportunity and the responsibility to be a leader in this work through our action and our voice as we strive for a more just community and country.
The Latin American Youth Center formed our Community Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE) committee of youth and staff after several staff attended an “Undoing Racism” training over a year ago. Today, the committee represents a multi-ethnic, multi-racial team of LAYC staff and youth that host brown bag discussions on anti-racism. Our CORE leaders and team are using WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table materials during our brown bag lunches to spur conversation and inform our critical thinking as the series’ topics speak to the relevant issues we are exploring.
LAYC’s CORE committee also sponsors social cultural events, our “Social Justice in Social Services” training, and has offered a space to process the traumatic events over the past year. Our CORE committee has decided to keep the LAYC open on inauguration day with a youth-coordinated day of conversation and activity so that youth and families have a safe space to come and process the day’s inaugural events.
WRAG’s thoughtful and very qualified speaker series has added so much value to our conversations. And, the videos, viewing guides, and discussion guides are free for our use, which we appreciate! Like WRAG, we began these conversations prior to the recent presidential campaign and election. These past months and years have raised the stakes well beyond what anyone could have imagined. No longer does racism and bigotry percolate and hide right under the surface. Today it is out front and center. Perhaps this is our moment and perhaps this is the opportunity we have needed. In the following days and years to come, LAYC’s voice must be at the table. LAYC’s activism of the past has been rekindled and ignited as we fight against hatred, racism, and bigotry. If our young people’s voices are not at the table they will continue to be on the menu! We will continue our conversations within the context of uncertainty, with urgency and unending love.
How is your organization putting racism on the table? Has WRAG’s work prompted a new conversation or contributed to your ongoing efforts? Let us know!