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Urban League of Rochester kicks off Interrupt Racism Summit

Oct 20, 2020

Seanelle Hawkins, President & CEO of the Urban League of Rochester
Credit Urban League/Zoom

More than 450 people attended the first day of Rochester’s Interrupt Racism Summit on Tuesday. The two-day virtual summit sponsored by The Urban League of Rochester educates people on how to dismantle racism at their workplaces and in their communities.

In her keynote speech to participants, Urban League of Rochester CEO Seanelle Hawkins said many organizations will speak out against racism without addressing systemic problems in their own organization.

“We got to change some things and this is going to require more than solidarity statements. I'll tell you now. It’s going to require more than anti-racist challenges. It’s going to require more than one-off conversations about race,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins said that non-profit organizations like the Urban league of Rochester will have to start internally to develop strategies to challenge racist systems. In his work as a training & development coordinator for the city of Columbus, Ohio, presenter Kinston Henderson works to facilitate conversations on implicit bias and on diversity and inclusion.

In a session called “Winning Conversations: How to Communicate Successfully and Courageously About Race,” Henderson encouraged the audience to remain curious, confident and courageous when approaching conversations about race in the workplace.

He said many white leaders have approached him with interest in learning how to have conversations addressing racism with their organizations.

“What I’m finding out is they want to know more and do more and be better as leaders,” said Henderson.

Henderson said that leaders can often influence how open people are to having conversations about race in the workplace.

Interrupt Racism Summit features dozens of speakers covering over 36 topics including housing equity and value gaps in education. The summit concludes on Wednesday Oct. 21. More information on can be found at www.urbanleagueroc.org/summit.