March 16, 2001

Workshop Promotes Race Relations

Print More

As a result of the initiative of three students, Cornellians had a chance this past weekend to attend a workshop designed with one major goal in mind: training people to work together in understanding racism’s effects on society and learning techniques to organize people to undo these effects.

After taking part in the same workshop last summer, Melissa J. Pomales ’03, Adrien Y. McElroy ’03, and Briton E. Holmberg ’01, decided to bring the providers of the training, The People’s Institute of Survival and Beyond, to the Cornell community.

“I guess it was fate that brought me to the organization,” said Holmberg of his initial exposure to the group. “I heard about it from a friend of mine and eventually ended up interning with them this summer.”

The training was co-funded by several groups, including Black Students United, Asian Pacific Americans for Action, United Progressives, and La Asociacion Latina.

The workshop, which started on Friday, March 9, and ended on Sunday, March 11, drew in over 25 students and administrators. The group spent their time together discussing the definition of racism, its manifestations in society, and community organization techniques to work towards bringing others together to end racism and its effects.

Many students walked away with a sense of accomplishment from the weekend’s training. “The workshop was extremely productive,” said McElroy. “It instilled passion and excitement into those who attended.”

For some, the training was challenging, as well as rewarding. “I felt the weekend was both challenging and inspiring,” said Julia Stone ’03, a member of United Progressives, one of the groups that co-funded the workshop. “It was also frustrating in a lot of ways … to realize that the world around us is just so stuck. We’re trapped in a system that needs renovation, and something needs to be done now.”

Members of the staff as well as the administration in the Cornell community were also present for the weekend-long training. “It was a real privilege to be a part of the undoing racism workshop experience,” said Denice Cassaro, community development administrator. “It gave us an opportunity to hear what students were thinking about the topic.”

Organizers of the weekend plan to bring The People’s Institute and Beyond’s training to Cornell again next semester, as a result of the weekend’s success. In addition, those in attendance at the workshop decided to form an anti-racism group on campus after the weekend’s experience. Plans are not yet concrete, but a high interest in the group has made the organizers hopeful.

“It’s looking very good,” said Holmberg. “And in light of the recent bias-related incidents, we believe this is the perfect time to bring the ideas of the group to the campus.”

Archived article by Aylin Tanyeri