By Abby Weingarten
Hot-button issues surrounding economic inequality and injustice are on the table as New College delves into a virtual “Race, Power and Politics” (RPP) discussion series.
What is the intersection of race and power within politics in the United States? How have the events of 2020 uncovered glaring discrimination and disparities? At 6 p.m. every Thursday from now until November 12 on Zoom, the campus community will join in, speak up and find out.
“What’s most important for me is just providing a safe space to discuss race, power and politics,” said Jada McNeill, the event creator and the assistant director of New College’s office of Student Activities & Campus Engagement (SA[u]CE). “Topics that RPP will address can be challenging, but I want people to understand the historical context as to why the U.S. is experiencing racial injustice like it is, and how it connects with politics and power.”
Jeanelle Austin, the founder of Racial Agency Initiative LLC, will be leading the discussion each week. Austin has spent 15 years facilitating group conversations on race, designing multicultural educational programs, mentoring individuals, and supporting institutional leadership regarding issues of diversity and inclusion integration. She has done public speaking for two decades in the form of sermons, class lectures, conference panels, workshops, and poetry and dramatic readings.
“I discovered Jeanelle at the National Conference on Citizenship last year in Baltimore. We talked about a myriad of topics, including racial justice, LGBT+ issues, women’s rights, etc. Based upon my personal dialogue with Jeanelle, I knew I wanted her to come to New College to speak,” McNeill said. “She is very knowledgeable and is constantly working on improving the climate for people of color. Oftentimes, racial justice is seen as being angry and upset, but there is also a way to do it with joy.”
McNeill and Austin both learned how to do this at the conference they attended, where they watched John B. King Jr.(the former U.S. Secretary of Education for President Barack Obama, and the current president/CEO of The Education Trust) speak.
“I appreciated the intersection John King provided of race, power and politics, and the content really resonated with me. I decided after the conference that I would like to do something similar at New College because it is an important dialogue to have as the nation navigates racial injustice/disparities, and the upcoming election,” McNeill said. “Initially, it was going to be one event, but there is so much to discuss that RPP became a series of events. I’m hoping this series positively impacts people the way John King’s speech did for me.”
New College, with its intellectually curious population, seemed like an ideal place to continue the dialogue. McNeill hopes that everyone feels welcome and encouraged to share their insights.
“I think New College students, faculty and staff should get involved in this conversation because race, power and politics impacts all of us on different levels. It gives us a chance to understand one another and to build community,” McNeill said. “Being a higher education institution, this is a great opportunity to have these conversations, and to listen to understand. This series is for us to dig deep and think critically of our democracy and how we can better advocate for a U.S. we would like to see in the future.”
For more information on RPP, visit novoconnect.ncf.edu/event/6207743
To join the weekly discussion, visit
Meeting ID: 983 0130 6119
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.