If race is mostly a social construct, a new participant in the annual Summit Against Racism plans to show attendees the issue's "Pittsburgh dynamic.".
Eliada Nwosu and some of her colleagues at Oakland's InterCultural House -- a living space for students at local colleges -- use mentoring and role-playing to teach tolerance to grade-school students. As ICH program director, Nwosu will be demonstrating these methods at the Summit, a day-long event being held Jan. 20 at East Liberty Presbyterian Church.
Games and theater will put ICH students and other attendees in situations where they have to make choices with racial implications, as well as confront their own use of language -- what they may say, and how others might take it.
Nwosu says ICH's involvement with the Summit will also be a boon to the residents of the house, which is dedicated to diversity. "As students, it's so easy to be confined within the walls of the university," she says. "Not only living in our community but becoming part of the community is so crucial. We'll get a first-hand taste of what Pittsburgh [racial] dynamics are all about."
Summit co-founder Tim Stevens, leader of the Black Political Empowerment Project, says he's thrilled to have ICH as a cosponsor. "The Summit is special because it's more of a thinking approach to celebrate the King holiday," Stevens says. Students living in the ICH "live the dream of what Dr. Martin Luther King is about -- not just talking about it, but trying to emulate it."
The Summit has always been a jumping-off point for a year of work, organizers say, resulting in everything from a mural project to greater efforts to affect police conduct in the community. This year, Stevens says, work will involve B-PEP's push for City Council to write into law the police policy and procedural changes that followed 1996's consent decree. The decree created temporary federal oversight of the city's police department following multiple lawsuits against the department. Those changes need to be codified, Stevens says, so that they needn't be justified to every new mayor or police chief. He believes Council will soon work on drafting legislation to make the changes concrete.
The Summit was created partly in reaction to the 1995 shooting death of black motorist Jonny Gammage by suburban police during a traffic stop, says co-founder Craig Stevens. Entry fees pay for programming and help finance a Jonny Gammage scholarship.
Nusrath Ainapore, outreach program director for the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and a Summit panelist, says the event can help create empathy among different social and ethnic groups. "If one part of the body hurts," she asks, "does the rest of the body not feel it?"
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