Nearly 200 students, faculty, and administrators gathered to discuss “Hope, Hate, and Race” at the annual Posse Plus Retreat (PPR), a weekend-long event where college community members discuss the impact of recurring social issues. Held at the Radisson Hotel in Utica on Feb. 3-5, PPR celebrated the 17th year that Hamilton College has partnered with the Posse Foundation.
Throughout the weekend, scholars and those they invited participated in networking activities, small conversations, and whole group discussions. Every activity posed questions about race or fostered relationships between people.
One notable activity involved participants splitting up into racial groups they closely identified with, and sharing their similar but personal experiences. Subsequently, different racial groups joined to discuss their relationship with one another, such as ‘white’ and ‘black’ or ‘biracial and Latinx,’ among other combinations.
Boston Posse scholar Kavya Crasta ’21 said “I think the most eye-opening part was when we were divided into racial groups that we identified with and when we went up to share the letters we wrote to ourselves,” referencing letters that each person wrote on how race affected them. “Both times, people expressed their different experiences and struggles, and what they hope or fear for the future. With that, I was able to become even more open-minded and consider a lot of perspectives and opinions that I had not considered before.”
Another activity had participants create “families.” Each family discussed flyers around the room that focused on race as seen in history, in media, and in general. Topics included the history of indigenous groups in the country, race representation in media, and the conflict between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.
On the final day of the retreat, participants brainstormed ways to bring the conversation about race to Hamilton. Different groups targeted different suggestions, such as improving the mental health of people of color on campus, creating spaces where people of color can feel more socially accepted, and how to extend the discussion about race to a broader audience.
Student Assembly President Nadav Konforty ’20 attended the retreat for the first time. “For me, [the retreat] was all about learning. I acknowledge that I was a white man coming into a space predominantly with [people of color] and with the conversation being about hope, hate and race, I knew that there would be times where I would need to step back and just listen because [it was] not my space to occupy, and I [was] a guest…What I learned most is that, from where I am, I need to work to help mobilize my fellow white peers to just do more in making this community better.”
With over 8,000 attendees having the same conversations at the Posse Foundation’s other partner colleges, the retreat sought to increase conversation on how race affects human relationships—hopefully improving the discussion about race for all.