The West Virginia University community is invited to attend the anti-racism activation experience titled “A Long Talk About the Uncomfortable Truth” on Feb. 15 and 22 from 4:30-6:30 p.m.
The two-day event will begin with a virtual conference organized as thoughtful conversations where participants are asked to listen, view and respond in real time. The discussions will include large and small group settings using the breakout rooms feature.
A Long Talk exposes participants to a level of truth about the duration, violence and intentionality of oppression in America. The mission is to energize, activate and empower allies by engaging in an ongoing conversation focused on truth, understanding and problem solving, leading to individual and cooperative activism.
In October of 2020, Kristen Dieffenbach, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences athletic coaching education faculty member and Christina Villalon, third year doctoral student, attended the national Project Play Summit where they participated in a mini version of A Long Talk. They secured two spots for CPASS students and offered them to Marla Gladstone and Michael Ball, who attended. The CPASS team later partnered with the WVU Research and Social Work offices to expand the project on campus.
As a collaborative effort, the group introduced the experience to the WVU campus through two sessions. They were awarded the Transform This! Challenge Grant and a grant pledged by the Women of WVU to expand the training. “Those grants helped to ensure that money wasn’t holding people back from getting valuable knowledge about racial equality. It’s critical to make this programming accessible to people who are interested in learning more,” Gladstone said. “On that first call we had more than 16 different college units participate all over this campus. Clearly there is an interest.”
The collective undertaking has underscored the importance for continuing the work. “We need to do a better job considering the experiences of many people on this campus. This can be done by examining who isn’t here and who doesn’t have a seat at the table,” Gladstone added. “I believe that this course is a great way to start wherever your knowledge base is right now. We need to take meaningful steps at every level of the university to spark positive change and not just talk about it.”
Attendees will need to complete prework that will provide a common foundational understanding of the issue before entering the group discussion. The prework is a multimedia collection of content reflecting the truth about the history of racism in the United States and impact it continues to have on society.
“The preparation helps make sure people coming into the class area are ready to have a real conversation about historical events. It allows participants to bring a humility about the missing gaps in knowledge they may not be aware they have,” Gladstone said.