By Isabel Lohman, 23News Reporter

Diversity Peer Educators hosted Cultivating Community Conversations in hopes of helping students learn about their existing perceptions and different identities.

DPE held the conference on Sunday, March 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Randi Anderlik, the president of Four Directions: Indigenous Peoples and Allies, was a guest speaker. There were also three facilitations led by DPE. This event was geared to anyone in Columbia who wanted to learn more about education, activism and community, according to DPE’s twitter.

DPE is student-run and is “dedicated to fostering genuine, respectful dialogue about diversity and social justice issues,” according to their Facebook page.

Ana Perez, a DPE facilitator, attended the event for the second time. She particularly enjoyed a facilitation about being a better ally.

“A lot of people think it is more of a noun than it is a verb,” Perez said.

While in her year of training for becoming a DPE facilitator, Perez learned that being an effective ally to someone who has a different identity requires her to ask questions and actively listen.

The event was a designated brave space where guests were encouraged to speak openly about their own experiences and identities. One of the facilitations was a guided fantasy in which participants imagined a world where people of color were the majority. After the fantasy was completed, participants were encouraged to unpack how they felt to see why they may have been uncomfortable about certain things, student coordinator Lydia Ghuman said.

These conversations can be challenging, Perez acknowledges, but she says they are meaningful. Perez said these conversations shouldn’t differ from an average conversation within a classroom or social circle.

“A brave space should be overall any single space that you have,” Perez said.

Ghuman hopes that any facilitation or event that DPE hosts allows for “seeds of thought.”

As a planner for the event, she tried to mindful of which topics were the most pressing to the Columbia community right now.

“You have to be really strategic in what you’re choosing because sometimes this is like the only event that people get to actually learn and talk about things in an open space,” Ghuman said.

Perez hopes students take the initiative to learn more about different identities. She believes the MU social justice centers are all putting on “impactful and beneficial” events but that it is up to the students to make these events a priority.

Ghuman said the best way to ensure that students know about events like CCC is through social media. She said the Multicultural Center tweets and creates hashtags and flyers for each event. MCC also emails different groups on campus to increase awareness about any events or programs it is putting on. For Ghuman, a personal approach is also important.

“I just try to talk about it as much for the week leading up to it so that people are constantly hearing about it,” Ghuman said.

Perez hopes that students who hear about these events chose to go even if they are hesitant.

“If you feel uncomfortable initially, it will work out in the end,” Perez said. “These spaces are meant for people to learn and they are meant for people to engage and to create a community and to create a conversation.”

Edited by Aviva Okeson-Haberman | arodn9@mail.missouri.edu 

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