Conference builds connections among minorities

The Temple Graduate Students of Color organization held a conference to honor scholars of color from around the world.

Steven Lawrence, Malcolm Byrd, and Marsha Brown-Woodward, representatives from NewCORE, present their roundtable discussion called “Conversation Peace: Using the Art of Conversations to Present and Preserve Our Truths” at the Scholars of Color Conference on Saturday. | EMMA PADNER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Grace Tang hopes no one else feels the isolation she did as the only student of color in her master’s of public history program.

In 2017, Tang reached out to other graduate students of color in various programs to co-found the Graduate Students of Color Association.

“The [association] was a way for us to reach out with each other and connect and realize that even though I’m in history and another person is in physical therapy…that we’re having these shared struggles,” Tang said. “We can congregate with one another and help each other through that.”

Tang, along with Graduate Students of Color officers Menika Dirkson, Alisa Shockley and other members hosted the Scholars of Color Conference on April 12th and 13th. The group began planning in August 2018 and with the help of 20 sponsors hosted more than 100 national and international presenters, organizers, and workshop hosts to hold 30 sessions, Tang said.

The Scholars of Color Conference showcased what the organization has done for Temple students over the past two years. For Tang, that meant emphasizing networking opportunities between people of color and finding a common ground with each other despite their differences.

“It’s very interdisciplinary, focused on different genders, nations and nationalities we have people coming from international locations,” Tang said.

In addition to independent scholars and community members, the Scholars of Color Conference had international speakers from Nigeria, India, South Africa, and Canada.

On Saturday, NewCORE, a race and ethnicity conversation organization , hosted a roundtable discussion “Conversation Peace: Using the Art of Conversations to Present and Preserve Our Truths.” The talk featured NewCORE representatives Steven Lawrence, a White Rock Baptist Church minister; Malcolm Byrd, an American Bible Society minister and Marsha Brown-Woodard, a director of supervised ministries from Palmer Theological Seminary.

Lawrence said he had worked on the conversation concept for about ten years, and that the style is centered around personal storytelling with active listening.

“In NewCORE, we say you have to ask them a question,” Lawrence said. “You have to go deeper into what they’ve said, not allow yourself to talk yet…and that deepening of the conversation helps bring people together.

Valerie Andrews, the program director of PULPIT in Haddonfield, PA, gave a presentation on Clergy Conversations and attended NewCORE’s roundtable.

She said a conference like GSCA’s is important because it helps to celebrate the work that people of color are doing everywhere and inspires conversations.

“Exchange in communication helps you to think outside the box, you may have limited thoughts, perspectives, etc and I think when someone else is talking and you’re actively listening, you tend to learn more,” she said.

Tang said she believes the conference successfully brought people from all different backgrounds together.

“The same way [GSCA] brought together all these different people…from physical therapy to history, all these different background that we still manage to find common ground and hang out and have fun, and it’s being replicated here on an international level, it’s just really cool,” she said.

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