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Conversations About Race

This year Black Heritage Month at Olin College will include discussions, movie screenings and a peace circle among other events. A total of 13 events will celebrate, educate and reflect on important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. The activities are being held on both the Olin and Babson College campuses.

“It is important to be intentional about creating a series of different events that can engage people in different ways when discussing race,” said Olin’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator, Rame Hanna. “I hope the D&I programs this month create opportunities for folks to reflect on their narrative and that of others to create a safer and more inclusive community on campus.”

Since 1976, the month of February has officially been designated Black Heritage Month – or Black History Month- to celebrate the achievements by Black and African American people and recognize their central role in the history of the United States. 

The first event at Olin took place on Friday, February 2, when students, faculty and staff found a series of conversation prompts on the tables in the dining hall. The prompts included: “How often do you think about race?” and “What does it mean to be white?” and “What causes people to assign others to racial categories?”

For Hanna and others the prompts were a way to jumpstart an open dialog about race in a welcoming and respectful way.

“We tend to think of ourselves as very liberal in New England, but there are real inequities,” said Hanna. “These conversation starters give people a chance to investigate the power and privilege dynamic that are present systemically in our society.”

At his table on Friday, Hanna engaged in some of those conversations with a handful of Olin students, staff and faculty. One individual wondered about the definition of a marginalized community. Someone else brought up gender identity. At nearby tables, others in the Olin community picked up on the lunch-hour theme and started their own conversations. 

The community will have another opportunity to discuss race around the table on February 9.

Screenings of Selma and Moonlight will also take place in the coming weeks, and a 3-day Black Affinity Conference is slated to round out the month’s events.

“I encourage all members of our community to take some time this month to engage in open dialogue, reflect, celebrate, and attend some of our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) community events,” said Hanna.