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West Hartford Invited to ‘Wake Up’ to Systemic Racism with Author Debby Irving

Author Debby Irving will lead a workshop based on her book, "Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race."

Register for a day of reflection and dialogue with ‘Waking Up White’ author Debby Irving on Jan. 20, 2018, at First Church West Hartford.

By Joy Taylor

Signed copies of Debby Irving’s book will be available for sale at the January 20th event in West Hartford.

Debby Irving, racial justice educator, public speaker and author of Waking Up White – And Finding Myself in the Story of Race, will offer a workshop at 12 South Main St. in West Hartford Center on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

First Church West Hartford’s John P. Webster Library is presenting the program for the community and welcoming Irving for a day of reflection and dialogue. The morning session will be more lecture style, with the afternoon offering chances for interaction and group work.

As her book title suggests, Irving is a white American woman who grew up in Massachusetts in what she describes in her book as an iconic “Norman Rockwell” setting. By sharing her own often cringe-worthy story, Irving offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. She is an experienced guide in the exploration of systemic racism and how it perpetuates long-held racialized belief systems.

If you have white skin, your eyes will be opened by what Irving has to say.

It is “powerful messaging, period,” said Irving in a recent phone conversation. She said she sees herself as a tool, or vehicle, in this work to encourage communities to have these sometimes uncomfortable conversations about race. Often what happens is readers or workshop participants begin to have a fresh awareness of their own behaviors, even those who have felt they know the “right” way to behave.

As she unpacks her own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, or wanting to help people of color, Irving reveals how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually sustained her ill-conceived ideas about race. She will also discuss why and how she’s changed the way she talks about racism, works in racially mixed groups, and understands the racial justice movement as a whole.

Geordie Campbell, pastor at First Church, has been facilitating a book discussion group at the John P. Webster library on Waking Up White.  “The power in Debby’s writing is born of a unique blend of autobiography and cultural reality. She tells stories of her own life and the awakening process she has experienced.  They are evocative and personal. But she doesn’t merely leave it there. She offers a compelling analysis of socio-political-economic structures and challenges as well. As we finished our five weeks each participant felt they had been invited to grapple with our own stories of race. In the end, that’s where waking up to race needs to begin for any who seek systemic change.”

Jennifer deSimas, the John P. Webster Library director is looking forward to Irving’s visit. “Debby’s story is one many can relate to on some level. As a white woman myself, my eyes were opened by her description of systemic racism and the obstacles people of color confront in their daily lives. I’m looking forward to meeting her in person and seeing what other folks might bring to the conversation – and for learning ways to continue the dialogue about what white privilege means in our daily lives.”

Irving will be selling and signing copies of her book for $10 each, at the event. The John P. Webster Library also has copies available to borrow for individuals or book group discussions.

Waking Up White functions as both a “Racism 101” for white people and a rare exposé on whiteness for people of color. There is no fee for the workshop and lunch and refreshments will be provided. This provocative day of interaction and dialogue is expected to be filled to capacity, so please register in advance on the website, or call 860-232-3893.

Irving has been speaking and leading workshops around the country, and she devotes herself to exploring the impact white skin can have on perception, problem solving, and creating culturally inclusive communities. A graduate of the Winsor School in Boston, she holds a B.A. from Kenyon College and an M.B.A. from Simmons College. Her first book, Waking Up White, tells the story of how she went from well-meaning to well-doing. Her website has blogs, TED Talks, resources and more. 

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1 Comment

  • “If you have white skin, your eyes will be opened”. That is some serious racism, and the hypocrisy of the militant left knows no bounds. Do not take this person as an intellectual but moreso echoing the hollow sounds of the brainwashed masses.

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