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Case Study: Confronting Anti-Black Racism Series with Sister District Sacramento

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“Confronting Anti-Black Racism – Learning Together” 

by Phyllis Cauley, District Captain, Sister District Sacramento

Background

In 2020, systemic racism in America was on vivid display for the world to see, especially towards Black people. Ahmad Arbery was chased and murdered as he was jogging through a neighborhood in the Georgia town where he lived; Breonna Taylor was killed in a “botched” no-knock warrant event in Kentucky; and George Floyd was murdered in front of other police officers and witnesses for “resisting arrest” in Minnesota. And these are the names we remember – there are so many more. These deaths are horrifying but are not new. We need to understand that Black people in America suffer other forms of blatant racism and micro-aggressions on a daily basis. 

After the George Floyd murder, Sister District Sacramento began discussing what we should do. Our partners in the 2020 Coalition Sacramento (a regional group of progressive organizations and Democratic Clubs) were having the same discussion. Around the same time, a Sister District fellow was helping us make phone calls to promote one of our events. She spoke with one of our volunteers – Tracie Stafford – who said she was available to offer anti-bias and anti-racism training to organizations. 

Our Planning Team was comfortable contacting Tracie about facilitating a session for our organization. She was a speaker at our first meeting in 2020 when she was running in a primary for the California State Assembly and one of our team members knew her from her church. Tracie is a cultural competency facilitator, social sustainability scientist and advocate who has traveled the country delivering anti-bias and behavioral leverage training to corporations, political groups and activists. She has served as the Regional Director for the CADEM Black Caucus, PAC Chair for the Sacramento NAACP and President of the Women Democrats of Sacramento County and is the newly elected Chair of the Democratic Party of Sacramento County. 

Confronting Anti-Black Racism (CABR) Two Session Series

The two-session series is designed to address topics critical to Ally Impact. Allies are being called to respond to anti-Black racism. This can be daunting, resulting in unintended misinformation, miscommunication or worse…silence. The goal of the sessions is to help participants walk away armed with a deeper understanding of the fight and also a deeper understanding of themselves and their role in the movement. Each on-line session is 2 ½ hours long and participants are limited to 20. 

The first session focuses on implicit bias – bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs.  The group identifies their own biases and is given physiological and neurological tools to interrupt them. The second session focuses on historical anti-black racism’s history and current day experiences. Both sessions are a “safe place” for participants to discuss their own concerns and to explore the role biases play in their own lives. The sessions are very interactive and require participants to trust each other. Participants must attend the first session in order to attend the second.

Alumni

Based on the success of our initial two-session series and the interest of participants to continue discussions, Tracie offered to facilitate monthly alumni meetings. After a few monthly meetings, our alumni group decided to rotate agendas on a bi-monthly basis. The first hour is a round robin discussion of issues/questions raised by participants. The second hour rotates on a bimonthly basis between a book club and a hot topics discussion. The books and the topics are suggested by the participants. In addition, we have a private Facebook page for CABR alumni.

Administration

Participants are invited to attend the two-session CABR series via email. Both Sister District Sacramento and 2020 Coalition Sacramento members are invited. All participants must register on Zoom and are approved manually after review of their registration form. We ask what they expect to get out of the sessions. Their responses help our facilitator prepare for the sessions. Alumni must also register in Zoom and their attendance in the two-session series is verified before their registration is approved.

My partner from the 2020 Coalition and I serve as co-hosts on the Zoom calls – admitting participants, noting attendees, monitoring chat, etc. We meet with Tracie before a two-session series to see if the agendas need to be tweaked and to be sure we have the correct links for in-meeting activities. I also maintain a spreadsheet of registrants and participants/non-participants for each of the two-session series.  

Success and Lessons Learned

To date we have held four two-session series with a total of 53 participants. Our fifth two-session series is scheduled for February 2021. We have also held five monthly alumni sessions with 23 alumni participating. Participants are incredibly engaged in these sessions. They tell us they’ve learned a lot about themselves and we can see their thinking evolve at each session. Truthfully, we all, including the   facilitator and co-hosts, are enlightened and enriched by the experiences of others. I see the members of our Sister District Sacramento Planning Team who are now “alumni” bring what they’ve learned into our activities.

Lesson learned: the coalition groups paid Tracie (note: SD Sacramento used part of our Volunteer Reimbursement allotment from Sister District — we suggest this!) and encouraged attendees to donate to Tracie’s campaign debt fund by sharing the link on calls. There was a “flake rate” of about 30% for the two-session series. We think that asking for a small donation from attendees (essentially a sliding scale attendance fee) will reduce flake rate and help us pay Tracie a little more. Starting with our April two-session series, there will be a fee per participant to be paid directly to Tracie’s business. 

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