The Durham convening has been the most impactful and transformational convening for me personally during the Forward Cities Fellowship. A group of economic development and entrepreneurship leaders from the four Forward Cities came together to learn about the history and legacy of racism and oppression in Durham, from the demise of Black Wall Street to redlining practices in housing, and we had many opportunities to reflect on how similar histories and legacies exist in our own cities.  

The racial equity training facilitated by Bayard Love and Monica Walker at the Racial Equity Institute was very powerful for me and the members of our New Orleans contingent. The difficult thing about having conversations about oppression and racism is that racism is often invisible, and this training provided compelling data and statistics across systems to dispel myths around racism no longer existing or no longer being a dominant force in our society. Many of us wanted to bring the training to New Orleans for our own organizations as a way to help “make the invisible visible” and have started organizing this session. I read the recommended book Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and have planned a racial equity staff training for my team at Propeller next month.

This convening also allowed many opportunities for our cohort to discuss our own personal experiences through readings of texts such as Frederick Douglass “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”, which is used by the Aspen Institute in its leadership sessions. During this leadership session we were led by Christopher Gergen in the Socratic method to share our reactions, reflections, and connections to present-day lives and our work in entrepreneurship and economic development.

Andrea Chen is the Executive Director of Propeller in New Orleans.