Recap: Upswell 2020 / Day 1
// By The Upswell Team
How do you begin an experience like Upswell 2020 – one that is designed to both wrestle with the painful truths our society faces and embrace the optimism required to heal our communities and nation?
It turns out the answer is straightforward: by getting comfortable with that deeply uncomfortable dichotomy.
The very first moments of Day 1 framed the point perfectly. In one session, Felicia Savage Friedman of YogaRoots on Location offered a powerful set of community agreements, including that one of our primary charges must be to “struggle together.” In another session, just a virtual room away, Stephanie Romero of Awaken Pittsburgh shared a complimentary mantra – “May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be at peace.”
So, with a sense of shared burden, empathetic hope, and clear purpose, Upswell officially kicked off.
Here’s a look at what took place today.
On the Main Stage
- Author Isabel Wilkerson on being Black in America: The caste system assigned people to roles to get the work of building the country done. We are currently seeing shadows of that assignment. Caste is the idea of holding “fractured bones in place.” Race is the skin, and caste are the bones. It’s about policing boundaries between the two. How do we change things? “Our era is calling on us to get to know our history,” Wilkerson says. That’s how we can truly heal.
- Author and academic Ibram X. Kendi on what it means to be antiracist: it’s not the absence of racism, but the acknowledgement that it does exist and the active fight against it. It’s critically important to diagnose ourselves or let others diagnose us. To be antiracist is to say there’s nothing wrong or right about any racial group. “This nation is dying,” he urges, “and we need to do the hard work of healing. We need to go through the pain of healing. Some of us want this nation to heal without pain. I don’t think that’s possible.”
- Samuel Rodriguez on being deep in personal faith while caring about the wellness of all of humanity: It’s not political. Imagine a society where Billy Graham’s faith and Martin Luther King’s activism coexist. But it takes compassionate action on our parts. Otherwise, “today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity. We are what we tolerate.”
- Alejandro Gibes de Gac of Springboard Collaborative spoke about equity, collaboration, and engaging with parents – especially in Black, Brown, and low-income communities – to boost learning for youth: “We must invest in families.”
- Pearlette Ramos of the Attorney Well-Being Group on the power of women to unify and lead: “We go along to get along rather than step forward to lead because we fail to see what’s extraordinary about ourselves.”
- Brandon Anderson of Raheem on how innovative tech is helping make law enforcement more transparent: Any person can report any police officer on the Raheem app. “We help to provide resources for and policy recommendations in favor of people who are harmed.”
- Joseph Tolton of Interconnected Justice: Only when Africans and Black Americans come together will they heal from subjugation and dislocation in our shared history. “We are deeply united and in need of each other.”
- When trying to find compassion for people who do terrible things, Awaken Pittsburgh’s K.T. Tierney said, “No one is a throw-away person. No one should be boiled down to their worst deeds.”
- On supporting nonprofit organizations led by Black, Native, and people of color, the Bridgespan Group’s Jeff Bradach: Think of the impact funders could have if they just start writing checks.
- Echoing Green’s Cheryl Dorsey: One of the drivers of inequity in the nonprofit workplace is the notion of power. Nonprofits should care for their leaders of color as valuable assets within their communities.
How would we sum up Upswell’s first day? As Ibram X. Kendi so eloquently put it, “Bigotry is an existential threat.”
That’s the bottom line.