by Sylvia Morrison
In February, nineteen people of color, including fourteen CPTers, two Steering Committee members, one outside facilitator and two translators gathered for five days in Funza, Colombia to deepen the transformational work of undoing racism in CPT.
The gathering (conducted in Spanish with English translation) gave racialized CPTers an opportunity to meet in person, reflect on racism in CPT, learn more about internalized racism, and have fun together.
Facilitator Jorge Zeballos led the group through rich discussions on topics such as:
• Race: A social construct to define a person based on physical features, skin color, hair texture, etc. Race does not exist but racism built on the mythology of race is embedded in all of our life experiences. Racism is race discrimination combined with the abuse of institutional power.
• The wedge of internalized racism: An examination of ways in which white supremacy propagates racist messages about other races and how racialized peoples have internalized these messages.
• Strategies for restoring our full humanity: Ways to liberate ourselves from the toxic effects of internalized racist oppression and establish affirming, supportive relationships.
Participants also named and described specific institutional behaviours that exemplify the dominant culture of CPT and examined the effects of those behaviours on the diverse cultures of racialized members of the organization.
The most challenging task for the group was mapping the landscape of power in CPT. Participants sought to gain clear collective understanding of how power is distributed in the organization in order to have a better perspective on how to promote institutional change. CPT’s structure is often described as “relatively flat” in terms of hierarchy. However, racialized members experience CPT’s Steering Committee and Support Team, including Co-Directors, as having twice as much power as Field Teams and funders.
Filipino participant Rey Lopez described the gathering as “very energizing.” He said, “I feel as though some sort of blockage within me in relation to CPT has been uncorked.”
As of March, the People of Color caucus will now have representatives on CPT’s Steering Committee.
*The group expressed discomfort with the term “People of Color,” but agreed to use it until a more appropriate one can be agreed upon.