LEWISTON – Fifty community leaders from the Lewiston/Auburn area gathered in early October at Lewiston-Auburn College to participate in a nationally-recognized anti-racism and community organizing workshop.

The Many and One Coalition a broad collaboration of individuals, businesses, faith institutions and community-based organizations working for an end to hatred, prejudice and discrimination, arranged the workshop to help local leaders confront and undo racism in their communities.

The training, which began Friday night and continued all weekend, was co-sponsored by the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, the Haymarket People’s Fund, the Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnership and the Bates College Chaplain’s Office.

The coalition worked for over a year to bring trainers from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond to Lewiston to conduct the full Undoing Racism/Community Organizing Workshop. A shorter version was held during the Coalition’s “Ten Days of Community, Diversity and Justice” last January.

According to the People’s Institute Web site, the group has been dedicated to examining history, culture, internal dynamics of leadership and networking to help others face the issue of racism and learn to educate others for 25 years. More than 100,000 across the United States have participated in the Undoing Racism/Community Organizing training.

“It’s the perfect time for this training,” said Brenda Akers, a resident of downtown Lewiston and an active member of Many and One. “The city of Lewiston is targeting my neighborhood for destruction, a neighborhood full of poor people, and black, brown and white people. It’s the most diverse and least politically powerful area of the city. It’s no secret what’s happening. The city wants the poor people out. This weekend we’re learning how to bring different kinds of people together to fight the discrimination behind projects like this one.”

Through dialogue, reflection, role-playing, strategic planning and presentations, the weekend’s process challenged participants to analyze the structures of power and privilege that hinder social equity and prepared them to be effective organizers for justice.

The training was led by David Billings, a United Methodist minister living in New York, Dr. Michael Washington, a professor of history and director of the Afro-American Studies Program at Northern Kentucky University, and Rachel Luft, a professor of sociology at the University of New Orleans.

The coalition will convene a follow-up meeting in November so that participants in the workshop can begin to develop a collective strategy to confront racism in the Lewiston/Auburn area and throughout Maine.

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