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PossePlus Retreat raises conversations about “hope, hate and race”

Desi LaPoole
A&E Editor

Last weekend, Wooster Posse scholars brought two guests with them to the annual PossePlus Retreat (PPR), a weekend full of activities aimed at guiding participants through discussions about issues individuals face at the national and campus level. Each spring semester, people from different sections of the College community come together to discuss topics of political and social issues in the country. This year’s theme, “Hope, Hate and Race in the United States,” hoped to dive deeply into the conversation about race.

Over the course of last weekend, Feb. 9-11, participants in PPR conducted heavy conversations about race in America, specifically America under President Trump. Through this year’s theme, facilitators of the retreat raised questions about the changing landscape of discussing race in this country, some of which included: What are we talking about when we discuss race? What are we leaving out? How does allyship play a role in these conversations, movements and marches?

Discussions throughout the weekend focused on answering these questions by looking at different topics such as cultural appropriation, identity and whiteness.

Vy Vu ’18, a Posse scholar’s “plus,” said that she felt fortunate to be with a group of people who were able to openly have vulnerable, honest and constructive conversations. “I learned a lot about others and felt driven and more committed to working towards changes,” she said.

One of the primary goals participants agreed on accomplishing in the weekend was thinking of solutions to the issues raised during these discussions. Kamal Morgan ’20, another “plus” on the retreat, particularly enjoyed one activity focused on solving issues within identity groups. In this activity, participants broke off into small groups based on different subcategories of identities, such as “Black in the suburbs,” “Latino” and “first generation and low-income college student.”

“You can go and feel comfortable with other people, because you might not have known they identified the same way as you,” explained Morgan. “You can go on to tell your personal stories within the group and find ways to improve your group’s conditions on campus.”

Korri Palmer ’20, a Posse scholar and member of Posse 9, recalled that “the most challenging discussion for me was deciding what change I actually wanted to see within our campus and national environment.” According to Palmer, solving a problem as large and complex as racism is easier said than done.

These conversations would not have been as successful if participants had not established common ground before diving into a three-day long discussion on race. Friday evening was primarily focused on introducing participants to the topic and to each other. About 81 participants from the College went on the retreat this year, and for some participants, many of those were new faces.

Group ice-breaker activities were used to introduce participants to each other, not only by name but through life stories. Pairs were given questions such as, “What in your life has recently given you joy?” in order to help familiarize people who would otherwise be strangers. These types of ice breaker activities not only helped introduce people to one another, but also brought them together.

Morgan noted the inclusive atmosphere during the retreat. “I felt my value wasn’t diminished because I wasn’t a Posse scholar, but that I am important in many of these people’s lives,” he said.

The accompanying staff and faculty members added to the inclusivity of the retreat. Palmer said, “I enjoy PPR because it allows me to connect with faculty and staff along with my fellow scholars on campus. I always feel like I come out of PPR with stronger bonds than before.”

These bonds helped participants feel comfortable to discuss the topic of the retreat together. Meonyez Goodwin ’18, a “plus,” stated, “Sometimes, being at The College of Wooster makes it difficult to have certain conversations, but PPR makes it easy to feel comfortable with others who are different than you.”

PPR has served as a forum for students, faculty and administration to come together to discuss these issues and possible solutions. Many participants are hopeful that through these talks, people within the College community will start to see progressive changes on campus.

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