Community members from all walks of life are invited to join a public conversation Thursday on racism.
In Solidarity is a free event where residents can come together, share and listen to the realities of those who continue to face racism in Stanislaus County. It is hosted by 209: Youth Empowerment, a non-profit group that inspires young people and families to improve their communities through civic engagement, educational programs and conversations about mental wellness. The event is also hosted by The Unincorporated, a storytelling project aimed at amplifying marginalized voices in the region.
A wealth of research and human experience shows that racism is systematically embedded in our society, affecting employment opportunities, healthcare, education, housing, the environment and more. This stems from the belief that race determines human traits and abilities and that differences produce an inherently superior race, according to Merriam-Webster.
Organizers said they hope Thursday’s conversation will bring collective awareness that racism persists.
According to Pew Research, three-quarters (76% of each) of blacks and Asians and more than half (58%) of Hispanics report being discriminated against or treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity. Research further shows that a majority of Americans (65%) agree that since the election of former President Donald Trump, it is more common for people to express racist or race-insensitive views.
Nancy Martinez, founder of 209: Youth Empowerment, said she believed racial conversations were often geared towards an audience of county leaders, without incorporating community voices. Although Stanislaus County leaders are invited to join in Thursday’s conversation in downtown Modesto, she wants officials to realize that there is an urgent need to organize these rallies and that members of the community want a space to talk.
“Let’s come together and unite… so that we can all be on the same page as we move forward,” she said.
More than 100 people have already registered for the event, Martinez said. She adds that the main goal will be to build relationships.
The event will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Redeemer Modesto Christian Church on H and Ninth Streets. Free refreshments will be provided.
Social distancing instructions will be in place and masks are mandatory to attend.
Professors at California State University Stanislaus will open the discussion with an explanation of racism, Martinez said. Up to three participants will share their testimonies with the whole room.
The larger group will be divided into smaller groups of 10 people, where individuals can share about themselves and their experiences. Participants will also have the opportunity to identify areas for improvement, including how the community can be more connected and diverse.
The Unincorporated, recently founded by Emmanuel “Manny” Escamilla, a resident of Modesto, will feature the stories of marginalized individuals in the county, whose voices are often not heard. Additionally, the storytelling project will include residents’ visions for the community, which organizers say will get people advocating for the changes they want to see.
Martinez said there was no set plan for what might come out of the event. There is, however, a desire for a more inclusive event that caters to Spanish speakers and other races and ethnicities, she said.
The event will not be broadcast live. The start will be recorded and then posted on social media 209: Youth Empowerment, but organizers want to avoid recording small group conversations.
As of Tuesday, registration for the event had almost reached its capacity of 140 people. Those interested in participating can register online at Eventbrite.
This story was originally published 2 November 2021 2:45 pm.