Students Participate in Retreat on Identity

Annie McDonough, Maroon-News Staff

The Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC) hosted a three-day retreat over fall break, from Friday, October 9 to Sunday, October 11, for students interested in talking and learning about identities within the community. The event, titled “Skin Deep,” is a workshop that originally took place on campus in the late-1990s and was resurrected by the ARC in 2013.

The event was advertised as an immersive, introspective retreat aimed at exploring identity and discussing such matters as race, privilege and class.

Discussion and other activities were facilitated by Damali Ayo, an artist and writer who frequently visits universities to speak about activism and social change.

“The personal responses to the retreat were overwhelmingly positive,” ARC President senior Nick Yap said. “Not only were we able to foster discussion and introspection, but it created a community as well; it brought people together.”

The retreat was structured to be as immersive as possible, with participants spending 5 to 12 hours daily in close discussion in the Center for Women’s Studies over a period of three days. According to Yap, all students were invited to apply in early October, and about 15 people participated.

While the retreat was focused on discussion and introspection, its organizers saw it as a first step in creating social change in the community.

“I participated in the conversation so I could be part of the solution,” first-year attendee Dan Miller said. “I didn’t want to be a bystander; I wanted to take an active role in combating racism, and dialogue and learning is a part of that.”

Junior Federico Elizondo also attended the workshop and further expressed how the event worked to emphasize the importance of moving beyond discussion.

“The event was great at all levels. It provided a fundamental understanding of issues of race, but it also went in so far as to explore the ways to mobilize action and enact self-care techniques,” Elizondo said.

The retreat also included exercises to build relationships and trust between attendees, journaling to promote introspection and wellness activities like stretching and meditation.

“I heard the honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences of some people of color, which was illuminating,” Miller said.

In its description of the retreat, ARC says that Skin Deep’s aim is to create deeper social consciousness on an individual level so that these individuals can become better leaders in the community.

“So often, people don’t talk about difficult issues like race, privilege or inequality,” Miller said. “Skin Deep provided a place for students to delve into these issues, and come out with strategies for making the world better.”

Yap said he was impressed, not only with the amount of participation, but also with the enthusiasm of the group.

“Everyone who attended was engaged and committed to the entire three days of programming,” he said. “I believe that level of engagement really says something.”