My Experience at the
Youth Action Project Conference
Student Delegates that attended YAP
By Sophia H.
April 23, 2019
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the White Privilege Conference (WPC) on the morning of March 21, but it certainly wasn’t host Keith Brown leading the crowd with his rendition of Biggie’s “Hypnotize.” Lucky for us, this was only the first of many surprises.
The White Privilege Conference gathers people from across the country looking to both understand and combat white privilege. The mission statement of the WPC articulates:
“The WPC provides a challenging, collaborative, and comprehensive experience. We strive to empower and equip individuals to work for equity and justice through self and social transformation.”
Every year, Westridge sends a delegation of students and teachers to the conference. The faculty explores white privilege through workshops and keynote speakers while the students attend the Youth Action Project (YAP), the youth portion of the WPC. This year I, along with Mina G., ’22, Gracie B., ’20, Lily N., ’20, Jamie G., ’20, and Nicki K., ’20, Dr. Perez Del Toro, and Ms. Wei flew into Cedar Rapids, Iowa to attend the WPC from March 21-23.
We began each day by listening to a keynote speaker before attending the student portion, YAP. Students took part in activities surrounding identity and its relation to privilege. The conference also provided a space to practice and apply what we had been learning from the keynote speakers. Simply listening to the experiences of other students was eye-opening, but in the context of what we had been learning, it became awe-inspiring and unforgettable.
One keynote speaker, Dr. Heather Hackman, an expert on social justice, runs a firm consulting organizations in issues of diversity, equity, and social justice. She believes that white people need to fundamentally “come undone” in order to make strides toward racial equality. She cited making a complete commitment to leaving white supremacy and privilege. Her ideas made me look more introspectively at how I’ve been treating my own involvement in combating inequity. Like many at Westridge, I have a tendency to remain within my comfort zone and participate passively unless an issue specifically impacts me. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be in regard to my involvement in movements toward racial equality, but speakers like Hackman inspired me to be more vocal and committed to the cause.
Along with the keynotes and throughout the conference, we also listened to poetry, sang anthems, and clapped along to some freestyle raps. The result is that participants developed a community through not only speakers and speeches, but also art, solidarity, and appreciation.
Adding to the experience as a whole was getting to know the other YAP delegates from schools and groups across the country. Through activities such as fishbowl discussions about interracial marriage and identity, I learned more about the vast experiences of the group. I particularly appreciated a daily activity in which we were divided into affinity groups based on our own ethnic and racial affiliations. I joined the multicultural affinity and found myself among people who didn’t necessarily look like me, but understood some of the challenges of being multiracial. We explored our privilege, our conflicts, and our appreciation for our commonality. It became a space where I felt represented.
After the three days of conferencing, my most principal takeaway is the importance of spreading the message of diversity and inclusion. My hope would be that every person attends a White Privilege Conference in their lifetime, but for now, all I can do is circulate everything I learned into my own communities and extend the impact of the WPC.