Tell Me the Truth: Exploring the Heart of Cross-Racial Conversations
Location: Main Library
How can we speak openly and honestly in cross-racial conversations? What would such a conversation even look like? Join Shay Stewart-Bouley (black) and Debby Irving (white) as they talk about racism’s impact on their lives and how conversation has been instrumental in their own understanding of 21st century racial dynamics.
Though conversation is a primary way human beings think together, fear of talking about race prevents us from using this critical tool. Shay and Debby will explore the common fears and pitfalls of cross-racial conversation that keep people isolated in their own racial groups, at the expense of personal, professional, and societal growth. They’ll also help audience members understand how interpersonal social patterns hinder organizations from living up to their own ideals for diversity.
Finally, Shay and Debby will offer suggestions to create racial justice habits that can move us from isolated events to sustainable connections.
About the authors
Shay Stewart-Bouley currently serves as executive director of Community Change, Inc., a Boston-based racial justice education and advocacy organization that focuses on systemic and institutional racism. Born in Chicago on the crossroads of working-class, Black, and female, Shay has worked to consciously weave these intersections into her daily life and professional pursuits. In 2002, Shay moved from her native Chicago to Maine and, as a Black woman living in one of the least diverse spaces in the United States, found herself writing regularly about race relations, social justice, and white supremacy. Shay has become a prolific blogger at her award-winning blog Black Girl in Maine, where she focuses on race, gender, and age and the experience of living on the too-often devalued end of each. Since 2003, Shay has written the monthly column, Diverse City, for the Portland Phoenix. Prior to Community Change, Shay served as executive director of Joyful Harvest Neighborhood Center in Biddeford while also providing consulting and grant-writing services to a variety of non-profits. Shay holds a B.A in African-American Health, Wellness & Health Disparities from DePaul University, and a M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision from Antioch University New England.
Debby Irving brings to racial justice the perspective of working as a community organizer and classroom teacher for 25 years without understanding racism as a systemic issue or her own whiteness as an obstacle to grappling with it. As general manager of Boston’s Dance Umbrella and First Night, and later as a classroom teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she struggled to make sense of tensions she could feel but not explain. In 2009, a graduate school course, Racial and Cultural Identities, gave her the answers she’d been looking for and launched her on a journey of discovery. Based in Cambridge, MA, Debby now devotes herself to working with white people exploring the impact white skin can have on perception, problem solving, and engaging in racially just dialog and action. A graduate of the Winsor School in Boston, she holds a BA from Kenyon College and an MBA from Simmons College. Her first book, Waking Up White, tells the story of how she went from well-meaning to well-doing. Having spent summers and holidays in Portland, Cumberland Foreside, and Houlton, Maine, Debby identifies strongly as a Mainer. She has too many relatives in the Portland area to count, and would like someday to live in the area.
Debbie and Shay will be speaking about their book at the Brown Bag Lecture series the following day, Wednesday, September 10th at noon in the Rines Auditorium. More information about that talk can be found here!