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Evening at Egan presentation to focus on racism

Posted: November 14, 2013 - 1:03am

The final Evening at Egan presentation of the fall season will be a panel presentation and discussion on racism: “Deconstructing Racism: Power and Privilege in our Community.” Panel members will be Northern Light United Church pastor Phil Campbell, Christy NaMee Eriksen, Ishmael Hope, MK MacNaughton and Sol Neely, and the moderator will be Xh’unei Lance Twitchell, Assistant Professor of Alaska Native Languages at UAS.

The presentation will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15 in Egan Library.

This past April, racism and cultural appropriation became widely discussed issues in the community following a private party where many guests dressed in Asian-inspired costumes. Not long after the party, Eriksen, Hope, Twitchell and others organized a working group to discuss ways to continue conversations about racism in productive ways; a panel discussion, like the one planned for Friday, was among the ideas they discussed at that time.

In an Empire interview a few weeks after the party, Eriksen said an acknowledgment of racism as a real thing in our community -- not a theory -- was an important part of making progress.

“‘Making things better’ is going to take honesty and vulnerability and consciously working against racism,” she said in May. “An acknowledgment that if I do nothing, and if I just hope this goes away, that unconsciously just continues to let racism prevail.”

Neely, who was also interviewed for the article, said the competency to listen was also key.

“If we approach this with vulnerability and a willingness to listen, then maybe some transformation can occur,” Neely said.

Panelist MacNaughton addressed the issue with a My Turn titled “Time to open a dialogue over the Asian-themed brunch.” MacNaughton wrote, “If there is any hope of ending racism, we need to actively work to recognize it and address it. The beauty that has come out of this event is that it offers a call to action. Listen, and speak out.”

And in August, panelist Campbell wrote in the Empire’s Neighbors section (“Can we talk?”), “The congregation I serve, Northern Light United, is blessed with racial and cultural diversity, and we need to talk as much as everyone else. Even more important than talking is listening, especially for those in the dominant culture. It is time to hear stories and honor experience rather than argue and debate.”

Campbell also organized public meetings on racism at his church, and, like the other panel members, has been a frequent contributor to community discussions about the issue.

For more on this topic, visit juneauempire.com/art/2013-05-09/taking-next-step.; juneauempire.com/art/2013-05-02/time-tough-conversations; juneauempire.com/opinion/2013-04-24/my-turn-time-open-dialogue-over-asian-themed-brunch; juneauempire.com/neighbors/2013-08-25/can-we-talk.

Friday’s talk will conclude the 2013 Evening at Egan lecture series. The spring series, Sound and Motion, will begin in January.

For more visit www.uas.alaska.edu/eganlecture.

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