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Central Oregon high school students of color take part in ‘A Talk on Race’ at COCC

Racial struggles addressed in variety of ways

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Restorative Justice and Equity Group hosted a ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ discussion at Central Oregon Community College Thursday.

The keynote speaker for the event, MOsley WOtta (Jason Graham), spoke on ‘The Power of Place,' which touched on the struggles people of color have in genuinely expressing how race-related situations affect them.

Students from several area high schools attended, including Summit, Caldera, La Pine and Bend High.

Several people with current or previous roles in education also attended the event, which offered a safe space for students of color to speak freely on their experiences and feel a sense of belonging. 

Rebecca Easton has been a teacher at Bend Silver Rail Elementary for eight years.

“It’s really, really important for students of color to have a safe space to share their feelings," Easton said. "And we are really centering students voices at this event, because there are not a lot of places, not in schools, where those opportunities are there."

The event also was intended to help students find ways to inform educators of their needs. 

About 70 students attended the talk and were divided into groups led by a facilitator, before going into breakout sessions.

Within the groups, students had the chance to answer different prompts related to comfort zones and Identity.

The breakout sessions covered topics like 'Insights on Indigenous Cultures,' 'Celebration of African Achievements,’ 'Interrupting Racism,' 'Lantinx Peoples of the Pacific NW,' and 'Cultivating Diverse Leadership.'

“What I try to do is be really honest with students and make sure that we’re not sugar-coating things like history, and just be really able to deal with some of those facts in a direct way, but in a way that’s empowering," Easton said.

Near the conclusion of the event, the students participated in a group activity on Identity.

Different identifiers were posted around the room, and students would walk to whichever post they identified with, depending on the question. When it came to how they felt others saw them, most kids of color congregated at the Race and Ethnicity post over others like Body Size, Religion or Gender. 

The Restorative Justice and Equity Group says it is working on ways to implement restorative practices in the school to continually empower students of color.

Article Topic Follows: Education
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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.

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