Teens Talk About Racism is exactly that as its name says, north New Jersey teenagers talking about racism at this once yearly conference. The conference, started by Theodora Lacey, Clinton Lacey, Rori Kanter, Nancy Reardon and Maryann Woods-Murphy, seeks to encourage discussions and activities that challenge teenagers to examine themselves and their attitudes and to explore their potential to be the force of change in the anti-racism movement within their communities and the world at large. The conference has several youth members on the planning committee, I am one, who help to organize the conference and give perspective on how the conference will run for the participants. Usually during the morning there are a series of speakers including a youth representative of the planning committee to welcome the students and set the tone for the day. Afterwards, the students attend workshops which are planned and run by students from the participating schools. There is little to no adult presence, the teachers attend a special teacher workshop, to better empower youth to be leaders in the anti-racism movement.
The conference is free for the students and their schools except for transportation due to the Dr. Archie Lacey Endowment, administered at the Central Unitarian Church. Breakfast, lunch and various resources for both workshops and to take home, such as the book And Don’t Call Me a Racist, are provided for the students and teachers. The provided breakfast and lunch ensure that participants are alert, focused and ready to contribute to their fullest potential, especially since some of our students are on subsidized lunch/breakfast programs and otherwise would not be able to come to the conference if these meals were not provided.
A new edition to our schedule this year was the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday party which truly was a success. We plan on continuing to host this birthday part every year if possible.
While our endowment has allowed us to be effective in our community so far, we are ready to expand. For us to accommodate more students and schools at our conference, more money is need so that we can continue to be cost free to students and schools.
Conference facilities are donated by the Core Program of Fairleigh Dickinson University.