An open letter to this year's conference attendees, in follow up:
Dear 2018 NWDC conference attendees,
Friday was a transformative day. We will be sending out more information soon about evaluations and CEUs and next steps. First, there is something far more important that we need to attend to.
We knew that this conference was going to be a different experience and a lot of time and care and intention went into every detail, from the food, to the speakers and facilitators, to the space, to having mental health professionals who volunteered their time to help create a safe container. We had a lot of guidance and education from our speakers, Tara Mudaliar and Cynthia Good, and our facilitators, Patanjali de la Rocha, Kyana Wheeler, and Fran Partridge helping us wrap our minds around how to prepare for this event. We had over a dozen volunteers supporting the hundreds of hours of volunteer work by Jen and Melinda, starting in January. An incredible amount of work goes into conference planning. Many of us left the conference Friday night feeling raw, exhausted, inspired, open, and awake and were doing a lot of emotional processing over the weekend. The fact that we got to this place with this event means that we did really strong work together and it means that we were pushed in the ways that we needed to be pushed. We have heard from many of our white attendees that they feel changed by the time we spent together Friday. We have felt this change in ourselves. This is due in large part to the labor and stories shared by our speakers of color and to you we are deeply indebted. From the entirety of our hearts, thank you for showing up in the ways that you did. All of you.
And. We made a huge mistake. The organizers of the conference, myself included, caused harm. And it's uncomfortable. And we recognize that this is part of the falling forward of racial justice work. This work involves taking risks, being vulnerable, stumbling over our own biases and assumptions, and hopefully learning lessons from our fumbles. So much work and effort was put in to trying to head off as much of our conditioned white-mindedness, and we messed up in a large way anyway. And while our feelings around our errors are huge, we must use that energy in a way that supports the larger societal change we want and need. So we are going to do our best to do repair work and support larger community change. And this is what that looks like:
We did not adequately value the time, energy and expertise of Patanjali, Precious, Rokea, Idil, and Erika, our panelists and panel moderator. Jen and Melinda were strong advocates for paying everyone more than we have in the past and we increased speaker fees overall. We also felt strongly that the majority of our speaker funds should go to our Black and Indigenous speakers and we did that. We paid speakers in relation to the amount of time that they spoke, a very white way to approach these decisions in retrospect. We dedicated the largest portion of our speaker budget to the panel, but divided amongst five people, each individual panelist was paid significantly less than the other speakers. This typical model for panel discussions was inappropriate, problematic, and harmful considering the depth and vulnerability of the content and the unique risks and emotional load of asking Black women to teach a room of predominantly white people about the systemic and explicit racism they and the communities they serve have endured. This was not a typical panel discussion. We especially did not adequately value the time, energy and expertise of Patanjali who not only moderated the discussion but did work behind the scenes to support this event and help it succeed. The depth to which the conversation at this conference moved was due in large part to the work that you did. We did not inquire about or anticipate how best to support you emotionally after giving so much of yourselves to an event that centered white people and white learning. I'm sorry and humbled by the grace and kindness with which this inequity was called to our attention.
I would also like to apologize for the harm that was caused to the other people of color who attended and supported this event. I witnessed a lot of pain in that room Friday night and I am sorry. As we learned Friday morning, in Tara Mudaliar's skillful introduction, and again in Cynthia Good's thorough analysis, good people with good intentions are still biased and we cannot always see the ways that we harm people until it is pointed out to us. When we know better, we should do better. I assure you that we are taking this matter very seriously and, as a beginning, Idil, Erika, Precious, Patanjali, and Rokea will be additionally compensated for their time, energy, and the expertise they shared with us. While it is impossible to assign a dollar amount to someone's pain, showing our appreciation in this way feels like an important step in correcting our mistake. It will never be enough. Many of you have voiced that you are also called to compensate Idil, Rokea, Erika, Precious, and Patanjali for what you received from them. That information is below. (note: please only use this info to send money, not to contact these speakers) Idil Danan: PayPal: www.paypal.me/IdilDanan Precious Yarborough: CashApp: $PreciousYarborough Venmo: @Precious-Yarborough Patanjali de la Rocha: Venmo: @artemis-pennyroyal PayPal: email@example.com Rokea Jones: PayPal: www.paypal.me/rokeajones Erika Davis: Venmo: @Erika-Davis-22 Donations to their community group, Puget Sound Birth Professionals of Color, can be made via Cashapp: $Birthforthepeople
Repair work is not something that happens quickly and we trust that these amazing humans know best what they need. We appreciate your patience with us and with this process. I know it has not been easy to sit with this discomfort through the weekend. Moving forward, we intend to support the efforts and expertise of the talented birth professionals of color in our area. We are having powerful discussions within NAPS about how to turn this experience into lasting change. We welcome your ideas, questions, and concerns and you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be further emails for next steps for white folks who want to turn their discomfort into action. As a reminder to white folks, please seek out other white folks for processing, contact NAPS if you need anything at all. Thanks for reading, thanks for staying so present at a long day of intense learning, thank you for your patience and kindness.What we do with these feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, anger, and the urge to do more is up to us all.
Warmly, Gwen Kiehne and Laura Marsh Co-directors of NAPS and Jen Hamilton, Melinda Ferguson, and Larissa Jursich for the NWDC planning committee
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Please join us this year as we explore:
What Do You Bring to Your Work? An Invitation for Self Examination
Hosted in joint collaboration by PALS Doulas and NAPS Doulas This is a conference for birth doulas, postpartum doulas, and other birth professionals to learn and strengthen our skills. Join us for a day of connecting with each other and learning to better serve our clients and our peers If you are interested in donating towards the scholarship fund, please click here or contact us at email@example.com
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