AADH to host discussion on mechanics of race in America



The African-American Denominational House may not be an official organization in Chautauqua Institution yet, but they will make their presence known today.

The AADH will host a community workshop and conversation lead by project manager the Rev. Sterling Freeman. The program is titled “Why We Must Be Explicit, Not Exclusive, About Black Lives Matter,” and will be held at 12:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.

The AADH is an organization that represents the African-American faith perspective, Freeman said. While they are still in the process of becoming an officially recognized group at Chautauqua, they hope to eventually establish a denominational house to complement the existing denominational houses on the grounds.

Today’s workshop will cover structural power and how it affects racial and social tensions in the United States. This understanding will then be applied to understand institutionalized racism and the mechanics of race in America.

This understanding is key to the mission of the AADH, Freeman said.

“Understandig structural power is part and parcel to — it is essential to what the mission [of the AADH] is, and that is to be a house of peace and social justice,” Freeman said. “I don’t think you can work toward social justice and peace in the world without naming and interrupting structural power.”

Freeman said the program will also discuss why the conversation about specifically black lives is still relevant.

“We know that, certainly, all lives matter, but there have been some compelling circumstances to issue the call that black lives matter,” Freeman said. “There has been a question and a query based on some of the experiences [we’ve had lately] — do those lives matter at all? … So of course all lives [matter], but we’re at a moment where we cannot jettison the importance of black lives because of where we are in our communities and in our country.”

Over the course of the program, Freeman hopes to equip attendees with “the courage, the will, and the skill” to take the conversation back to their home communities.

“The overall thing is to spark some awareness and interest in going deeper on this issue,” he said.

Freeman said that Chautauqua’s mission to engage the best of human values in social and political conversations in order to encourage creative responses makes it an ideal venue for this kind of program.

“What better place on Earth to have these conversations than here?” Freeman said. “And I think it’s important to push ourselves just a bit more and find those places where we’re uncomfortable, because that’s probably where my learning edge is, and that’s where I need to stay.”