Having debuted in March in response to white supremacist Richard Spencer's planned visit to the University of Michigan (U-M), a free conference focused on ending white supremacy will return to U-M this Friday.
Kristina Agbebiyi created Building Power: Organizing Effectively Against White Supremacy after Spencer announced his intention to visit the University of Michigan (U-M) campus as part of a college tour earlier this year.
"My initial reaction was overall annoyance, but also fear that his supporters would all be gathered in one area so close to me," Agbebiyi says.
The U-M Master of Social Work student’s motivation for starting Building Power was not spurred by Spencer’s (eventually canceled) visit alone.
"Our campus has had instances of blatant white supremacy, there has been Nazi propaganda in the area, and we've had a building named after a eugenicist," Agbebiyi says. "I wanted to bring radical, direct action and organizing to our campus, because it’s needed."
Event attendees will leave informed about local associations and strategies for fighting white supremacy through community coordination and in clinical social work settings. Discussion topics will include bystander intervention, combating gentrification, coalition building, and empowerment against microaggressions in the workplace. There will also be a healing space for people of color.
While the first event’s speakers were predominantly community organizers, the upcoming conference has been designed with more of a social work lens.
"This year we’ll also have community organizers who are social workers and people who are solely clinical social workers," Agbebiyi says. "I wanted more of a social work presence to show that there are people doing this important work, and they're also really easy to find."
People often say "we don't know where to begin" when it comes to combating racial justice issues, and Building Power could be a start, Agbebiyi says.
"The goal is to connect U-M students and people in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti to local community organizing groups so they can become involved," they say.
Building Power will take place on Nov. 16 at U-M’s Angell and Mason Hall. For more information and to RSVP, visit https://umsswconference.wixsite.com/buildingpower.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Kristina Agbebiyi.