Exactly one year from now, 1,000 racial justice activists will gather in Baltimore for the fourth Facing Race conference. The Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.com, hosts Facing Race every other year to give our community a much-needed chance to meet face to face, to celebrate the great racial equity work taking place across the country and to learn from and inspire each other. Even in this age of new media tools that connect us remotely, there’s nothing like actually being in the room with people whose work you’ve admired, or even those with whom you’ve disagreed. These are the spaces in which plots take shape, alliances grow and—much to our delight—romances blossom.
Facing Race 2012 will take place 10 days after the election, and we are engaged in vigorous planning to predict the big discussions that will be needed. Whether or not President Obama wins a second term, we expect to be debriefing the election; in 2008 we planned a way to end what was then a spreading meme that black voters were to blame for the passage of California’s anti-gay marriage initiative, Proposition 8. For Facing Race 2012 we plan to assess recent history and gear up for the next stages of critical fights—in financial industry reform, education, policing and immigration. We’ll bring out the freshest cultural voices too, featuring the visual artists, comedians, writers and singers who sustain us and help us spread a vision of racial justice that includes everyone. Baltimore itself is a great city with its own long racial justice story, which we will also explore. And we’ll certainly be announcing new initiatives, as well as featuring reporting on Colorlines.com and Drop the I-Word, which we launched at Facing Race 2010.
You can check out highlights from past conferences at our website. This closing panel of Tim Wise, Maria Teresa Kumar, Van Jones and Cathy Cohen continues to provide insight, as does Melissa Harris-Perry’s rousing keynote and conversation with young activists. We heard from many people after the last conference about what it had meant to them. Perhaps the most gratifying comment I read was this one from a longtime activist: “At age 73, I have experienced racism for a long time and attended all kinds of conferences where race has been discussed. However, this was the most insightful and pragmatic exploration of the topic I’ve seen. Kudos to ARC and Colorlines for insisting on avoiding cathartic expressions of grievance and focusing on practical actions. It also pleased me to see the range of groups, ages and ethnicities involved.”
Young people love Facing Race, too. A 16-year-old who performed spoken word pieces on opening night said, “It’s great that I have a place to showcase my work with people who get my experiences, I had no idea this existed but now that I know, I want more!”
I know we all have a tough year ahead of us economically. While we wish we could make the conference free, we’re working hard to make sure that it proves to be vibrant and valuable to all involved in advancing racial justice, as with previous Facing Race conferences. So I encourage you to start planning now. Sign up to be on the Facing Race 2012 list, where you’ll be the first to receive exclusive discounts and information for Facing Race 2012. Raise donations for your travel, plan your car pool, call the friend that you’re going to stay with, reserve your vacation days from work. Early bird registration kicks off in January 2012. We look forward to seeing you in Baltimore next November!