WPA Directions - Issues for Action

We’ve just finished with the Town Hall meeting, where about 80 conference attendees participated in a fantastic, energizing discussion about WPA’s future directions and projects. I’ll write more about that in a post tomorrow. First, though I want to share some remarks I made before the meeting.

There’s been a long-running conversation in WPA since I’ve been involved about how to make our organization more diverse. The site of last night’s outing is also the location of one of the largest pickup basketball games in the city, and many of the players are accustomed to using the restrooms in the building during the game. Last night, however, the building was closed for our outing, and there was an employee at the door to let the players know.

One of our colleagues, a black man, arrived after the group. When knocking on the door, he was told that the building was closed for a private party because the person at the door thought he was with a group of 100 or so playing basketball. When he pulled out his name badge to show her that he was with the conference, she was horrified and apologized profusely, but the colleague was obviously upset, as were many of us.

Because of the bodies we live in, we don’t all experience the world in the same way. Last night was a stark reminder to me that as a white person, the ways our colleagues of color encounter small acts of racism in everyday interactions is invisible to me.

The Executive Board and conference planning committee will address the logistics of event access to make sure that at all of our events and activities our colleagues feel welcome. This kind of event won’t happen again.

But this isn’t an Executive Board issue or a logistics issue, and it’s not the only issue confronting our organization or us as individuals living in the world. Throughout this conference, we’ve gathered input from attendees – and we’ve received about 550 cards’ worth of that input – to tell us about the issues that they think we should take up, together, as CWPA.

CWPA isn’t a web site, or a conference, or a journal – it’s all of us. And if we see or experience things we want to change, we have the capacity to make those changes together. This means identifying issues to work on, figuring out what we’d like to do, and working to make those happen, together, collectively, as colleagues.

This morning we took an important step toward issues we think important, including diversity, for CWPA to address. Watch this space for more. And remember: WPA is all of us.