When Karen Elam and her team planned Brave Spaces: Rochester Summit to End Hate, they had no idea how timely it would be. Nearly 300 people have registered to attend the Sept. 13 event.
“When we began planning, we could not have imagined the pain and trauma this community would be experiencing in the wake of the death of Daniel Prude,” says Elam, director of the Levine Center to End Hate.
The summit is a follow up to the center’s debut “Why Do We Hate” event last November. Brave Spaces will feature 45-minute interactive workshops and a keynote by civil rights expert Eric Ward. Super Bowl champion and East High School graduate Roland Williams will offer closing remarks.
“As with our prior event, the summit is designed to achieve our mission: to unite the Greater Rochester community in overcoming hate through education, dialogue, and positive action,” Elam says. “We have put considerable planning into this day-long virtual event to hit on those three pillars. Sessions are designed to educate, to provide space for dialogue, and to inspire positive action.”
Before the pandemic, this event was slated for an in-person gathering in the spring. The center had to pivot to an online format, soliciting proposals from local community members and groups to lead workshops. There are 12 workshops for attendees, focused on three themes: storytelling and skills building; systems change and organizing; activism and hope.
Facilitators include Zack Ellis, founder and CEO of Their Story, a digital video platform used by cultural heritage institutions; Shira May, executive director at Partners in Restorative Initiatives;
Daniel Redic, a prevention education specialist at the Center for Youth Services; and Kristin Hocker, assistant professor of clinical nursing and co-director of the Health Care Leadership and Management program at the University of Rochester’s School of Nursing.
“We hope to create a brave space where participants can engage with challenging material around racism, antisemitism, and other oppressions in a very local context; explore and practice skills like active listening and other restorative approaches; and learn about antiracism efforts in communities like Pittsford and Chili,” Elam says.
A senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Ward in his keynote will address how antisemitism and racism fuel white nationalism. In his closing remarks, Williams is expected to challenge attendees to take positive action.
“I like to use the metaphor of an appetizer when describing the summit,” Elam says. “The keynote and closing presentations and 45-minute workshops should be seen as an opportunity to whet participants’ appetites for the main entree, that is, ongoing learning, dialogue, and action.”
Organizers will present options for such engagements organized by the Levine Center in partnership with local organizations like the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, 540 W. Main and Partners in Restorative Initiatives.
The goal: To unite the community to combat hate in all forms, Elam says.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.