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Race Relations week focuses on intersectionality

| Monday, October 19, 2020

Student government held their annual Race Relations week from Oct. 12-15 featuring multiple talks, a resource fair and a prayer service at the Grotto.

Kaya Lawrence, senior, is the director of diversity and inclusion in Student Government. Responsible for planning the week, she said she wanted to focus on Black liberation, intersectionality and the passion surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement this summer.

Lawrence intentionally chose to host Race Relations last week because it began on Indigenous People’s Day, she said. It also lined up with McWell’s Restoration week and the 27th Annual Hesburgh Lecture, which featured Angela Davis. Lawrence said she planned the week to fit with each of these other events.

“Monday was Indigenous People’s Day, and we wanted to bring recognition to that,” she said. “We also wanted to plan a presentation on racial battle fatigue, which we felt was a good intersection between Race Relations week and Restoration week. Tuesday, Angela Davis was the annual Hesburgh lecturer, and, well, Angela Davis is always relevant, so we let her be a part of that as well.”

On Monday’s talk, which discussed repairing relations between Notre Dame and the Potawatomi tribe, and Tuesday’s lecture on racial battle fatigue were both held over Zoom. Wednesday’s small group session on the Black Lives Matter movement was socially distanced in the LaFortune Ballroom. Thursday’s resource fair was also in-person, but outside, and the prayer service for unity on Friday was in-person and accessible through live stream.

Sarah Galbenski, senior and student body vice president, said that student government wanted to host both in-person and virtual events, so that events could be meaningful without excluding anyone who feels uncomfortable gathering in person, or anyone in quarantine or isolation.

“We wanted to be cognizant of including people who may not feel comfortable going to an in-person event or were in quarantine or isolation and still wanted to participate,” Galbenski said. “I think we struck a good balance — we’ve really learned about adaptability this semester and tried to get a good blend of in person and virtual events for this week.”

The co-directors of student life in student government played a large role in planning Thursday’s event. Senior Izzy Edgar, and junior Ian Baker planned a resource fair where different clubs on campus, including the Black Students Association, the Asian American Association and the Latino Student Alliance could hand out information and educational resources.

Other clubs, like PrismND and Access-Able, had tables to discuss intersectionality between issues regarding race and sexual orientation and ability, Edgar said. The fair also had food from Black-owned South Bend restaurants and a book raffle.

“I think we were most pleased with the Dismantling Racism resources fair because the club fair couldn’t happen in-person this year,” Galbenski said. “So all these groups hadn’t had a chance to be together and advertise what they do and attract new members and talk about the importance of their mission. So we were pleased to have a mini club fair for clubs that put diversity and inclusion at the forefront.”

Lawrence said she headed into the week with high expectations and came out impressed with campus engagement.

“Going into the week, I was really excited, because I had spent so long planning everything,” she said. “I would say that I am really happy with all of the conversations that were had across campus, especially given the limitations of COVID. I think that we were still able to have an impact on campus, and encourage our students, faculty and staff to engage in those difficult conversations.”

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