Friday, February 20, 2015

We're now deep into Black History Month events ... 
Dr. Lori Fridell

... and the upcoming week holds some challenging assignments:  On Wednesday, February 25th I'll be participating as a presenter for Richmond's Police Department in the Craneway Pavilion at the invitation of Chief Chris Magnus.

Since posting about this recently I've learned that I'm responsible for 90 minutes of a workshop on the city's  history as it was lived during WWII.  The time limit on this portion of the history is mine since this is the period that is relevant to my work with the National Park Service, and before that time there are good records of the times of the city's founding in 1905 up through 1941 in the Richmond Museum of History.  It was during that time that the city's population rose from 23,000 to 130,000 over the course of the war.  This means, of course, if one counts the city's birth as 1942 --the City is at least 20 years younger than I am!  The current population figure is 107,000.  The social changes embedded in those figures are staggering!

The reason for the workshop lies in the fact that Chief Magnus (in these days of "All lives matter") is wanting to have his force further sensitized in race relations; though -- under his leadership -- they're one of the most sophisticated in community policing strategies in the entire country.

That's one part of the workshop; the other is another 90-minute segment on race relations that will be led by a specialist in the field.  After learning her name I went to the website that listed her bio, and found myself with many questions ... may be foolishness, but nonetheless I find myself wondering ... .

Dr. Fridell is an attractive blonde who holds a doctorate in her field.  She comes from the world of law enforcement, so is part of that establishment, and probably has broad experience dealing with that population.   I have none.  However, I find my interest heightened as I try to imagine how a white professional in the field of diversity deals with questions around race before a force that is made of up a significant number of men and women of color.  Does she approach the subject from the point of white privilege?  That surely is the angle that successfully guides the work of one of my heroes, the brilliant and wry lecturer, Tim Wise of World Trust.  If not, then how do you suppose she handles the subject?  How will her presentation be received by such an audience?

As a black woman, my own work is so subjective, so personal, and so embedded in my treatment of that WWII history, that I'm wondering how on earth those two 90-minute periods will blend, if they do at all?

When Chief Magnus invited me to participate in this first of its kind workshop in this city, I clearly asked that he try to sit in on one of my talks so that there would be no surprises.  He agreed, but has not turned up thus far.  I suspect that the invitation came as the result of positive hearsay, and that he has no idea of the content of my talks, or of their effect upon audiences, or how they will interface with the other presenter.

I'm effective as a speaker, and my audiences are clearly moved by those presentations, but will they fit into this format?  I'm planning to simply do my Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday programs before this larger audience combining with the 15-minute film on Richmond's WWII history called "Home Front Heroes," then do my usual commentary and call for a Q&A.

I'm wondering if I shouldn't contact Dr. Fridell with a friendly warning so that she won't be unpleasantly surprised ... .

But then maybe I just worry too much.

... and then maybe I'm simply concerned that a presenter who comes from outside my world of color may deal with the race question not experientially, but in the abstract, and just how does that work in this context?  Maybe I need someone to convince me that this is possible -- without losing something of importance to the predetermined goal of establishing a greater understanding between the races.   Could it be that she will be really addressing the white officers, and that the officers of color will find little of relevance despite the good intentions of everyone involved?

One would think that -- at this advanced age I'd not be still developing questions, wouldn't you?  But the learning continues, and the answers remain just beyond reach ... as always.