By Diana Sanchez
Elm Staff Writer
Given recent events with vehicles coming onto campus yelling racial slurs at black students, the Wokeshop held by the Black Student Union on campus came at a necessary and urgent time for change.
The event was held on Monday, Feb. 17 in the Egg and attendees included members of the Black Student Union, students not affiliated with BSU, residents of Chestertown, and Washington College staff, including counselors.
The event was intended to be an open discussion to inform attendees on race-related issues such as discrimination of hairstyles and cultural appropriation.
Speakers at the event included Paul Tue, the founder of Students Talking About Race (STAR) a youth program in Kent County, and Doncella Wilson, the Systems of Care Coordinator for the Kent County Local Management Board. Both Tue and Wilson are also members of the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice, an organization that meets each month on the second Tuesday in Sumner Hall. The Social Action Committee for Racial Justice was created to discuss race issues in Kent County and end the oppression of people of color.
The event started with listening to the Black National Anthem titled “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” written by two brothers from Florida, James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson. It was first written as a poem, and in 1919, the NAACP dubbed it the Black National Anthem.
Following the anthem, attendants were asked to write the first word that they associated with white supremacy, Black Lives Matter, and neutrality.
Tue shared a quote on the idea of neutrality to teach attendees what the term actually means in the context of race: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” the speakers said at the beginning of the Wokeshop, citing it as a necessary step to have a truly engaging and enlightening experience.
Not all people agreed on certain topics, such as what is deemed cultural appropriation. The speakers said it was inevitable that not everyone would agree and that it does not necessarily make one opinion more valid than another in the context that the opinion is not based on any prejudice.
The last activity included two volunteers from the audience, one white and one black, who were asked to sit back to back and say out loud the things they have been told about the other person’s race.
At the end, the two students were asked to face one another and have an open discussion on how they really felt about what they have been told to fear from one another. The conversation ended with a hug between the two volunteers.
The conversation was meant to enlighten people on the discrimination that people of color experience and to learn and evolve as a community to be more inclusive.
“We are going to make sure we are protecting [our students] that we are there for them,” said Nakia Johnson, area coordinator of Residential Life, encouraging students to reach out to staff to share instances of discrimination.