In November, 3,500 race and social justice warriors, activists, organizers, educators, and creatives came together at the Facing Race Conference in Detroit for a long weekend of co-liberation and healing, reframing and reclaiming narratives, and community building and calls to action.
Participants traveled from all corners of the US, Canada and beyond to attend this unique biennial, multiracial, and intergenerational collaborative space for racial justice movement making – the largest gathering of its kind. The speakers, presenters, and artists represented some of the most important voices in racial justice work today – three days of superstars speaking their truths and connecting us in community. Throughout, the conference was rooted in place – a celebration of the rich culture of Detroit itself.
“We don’t need more awareness. This is what happened after the hashtag – after the hoopla. This is about our work.” ~Tarana Burke, #MeToo Movement Founder & Social Justice Activist
The conference plenary sessions were electric with dance, spoken word, and art. Panelists, MCs and and performers comprised a living Racial Justice Hall of Fame. With over 70 workshops presented by 120+ people – plus movies, author readings and more – there was an overwhelming wealth of opportunity to learn and connect.
Keynote speakers Tarana Burke (#MeToo Movement Founder and Social Justice Activist) and Hari Kondabolu (Comedian, Writer and Podcaster) had attendees riveted and inspired – and motivated to dive into the work wherever we live, to gather co-conspirators, and to never stop “our work” for justice. For conference highlights, check out this short video:
Solid Ground Facing Race Reflections
Four members of the Solid Ground family had the privilege to attend Facing Race, each of us representing a different aspect of our most active Anti-Racism Initiative (ARI) identity caucuses and leadership team: Jordan Billiot, Housing Stabilization Program Assistant and POC Caucus member; Tiffany Lamoreaux, ARI Manager and Strategic Leadership Team member; Liz Reed Hawk, Communications Specialist and Undoing Racism White Caucus member; and Arturo Velasquez, Tenant Counselor, Latinx Caucus and POC Caucus member.
Arturo shares some of his experiences: “The Facing Race Conference was quite uplifting and inspiring, on two levels. Professionally, it was gratifying to see and be with so many people passionate about the issues Solid Ground addresses. And to see people who have devoted a great deal of their lives to these issues – and faced many hurdles and challenges yet are still going strong – served both as a reminder of the struggles of our predecessors and as a spur to action. Personally, I was motivated to learn more about Detroit’s (and Michigan’s) history vis-à-vis racism, and its impact on a specific community. Detroit’s recent struggles are but the latest in a fascinating history of turmoil, strife, and renewal. I was also impacted by the visible signs of great inequality in Detroit. It was a demonstration of the pervasiveness of this inequality, and confirmation that working to address these issues is what I want to be doing.”
“Being in the same space with 3,500 people ‘waging love’ for racial justice was a truly inspiring experience,” says Tiffany. “My biggest personal takeaway from the conference was a reminder of the concept of Wage Love, a call to action from the late Charity Hicks, a water protector and activist from Detroit. Wage Love acknowledges that even though rage ignites us, love sustains and heals us. Wage Love is a reminder to attend to our relationships, to celebrate joy, to build from the small, to appreciate differences, to truly love ourselves and each other in order to do what needs to be done. Author adrienne maree brown also urged us, ‘We have to win as much as we can, while remembering the game is rigged,’ and to pay attention to the small things that can grow to make large impacts. Along with several other artists, adrienne expressed how feeling joy and celebrating life is an important, if often overlooked, element of resistance, using a powerful phrase: ‘Pleasure is a measure of our liberation.’”
For me (Liz), Facing Race turned out to be a much more internal and reflective experience than I anticipated. While the conference is multi-racial, attendees were primarily Black and Brown. I was acutely aware of my whiteness in this space – both in that it was a rare moment in my life when I was NOT in the majority race for a 3-day period – but also because I was very self-conscious about the way I walk in the world and take up space as a white woman. I felt sort of like a fly on the wall in a sacred space for POC – and I didn’t want to disrupt that in any way. It was beautiful – a humbling and incredible opportunity for self-awareness.
As our White Caucus rep, I entered into the conference feeling a responsibility to bring back my learnings. I chose sessions that sounded like they’d have the most direct application to my work, hoping to soak up resources to share with my team. When it turned out that many of the sessions I attended were all about internal processing and talking in small groups, I found myself fretting – in the white culture mindset I am socialized in – that I wouldn’t have much to share when I could have leaned more into what I could learn internally in the moment. Believe me, that “leaning in” has been happening ever since. Facing Race gave me that lasting gift.
Facing Race Videos
- Facing Race: Racial Justice Now & Forever!
- Welcome to Detroit Video
- Facing Race Plenary Streams (drag each scroll bar to the right to find the start of each video)