Youth in Winston-Salem discuss issues on race


“2011 Diversity Conference” by OregonDOT is licensed under CC BY 2.0 The Race Relations Forum allows the chance for minorities to speak up about issues that affect their community.

Tori Suhre, Opinions Editor

The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) for Winston-Salem hosts meetings throughout the year to address issues concerning students in the city. The YAC is responsible for advising the city council, including the mayor, on matters that are important to the age group.

This year they hosted the Student Race Relations Forum online on Sept. 24. Two students were selected by their guidance counselors from every high school in Winston-Salem to speak and represent their school.

“I think it is to give a voice to the students of our country and let us be heard because I think that adults and people in charge forget that their decisions affect us too and we have opinions too.” said Reagan senior Hasti Sadri.

The forum is directed by the city’s Human Relations Department, which is led by Wanda Allen-Abraha. The meeting was primarily led by students, though there were a few adults supervising, such as Effie McMillan, the executive director of Equity Access and Acceleration, Mayor Allen Joines, and Dr. Lionel Kato, the area superintendent of the school system.

“Our country is undergoing what some call a racial reckoning right now. The only way we’re going to make it through this time and secure the future of our country is to have real conversations about the issues around race.” Kato said.

After the adults finished introducing viewers to the live meeting, they handed it over to the Chair, Porsche Smith from the Winston-Salem Prep Academy, and Vice Chair, James Taylor from the Early College of Forsyth, to begin the discussion on race.

There were many questions and answers discussed, such as: “Do you and your peers feel greatly affected by the racial justice movements that have taken place recently?” Many students felt like they were more empowered in this generation because of the movements, while others shared that they felt sad about their situation.

“Oppression itself takes a toll on your mental health.” Reagan junior Olivia Moore said.

Throughout the discussion, the majority of the students agreed with each other’s opinions about race relations in school and in the community. It was presented as an educated discussion rather than a debate. They also agree that it is important to educate themselves on topics and elect officials that will fight for them and not against them.

Another issue that was discussed was about black history and topics being brought up in classes. Many in the meeting expressed their beliefs that African American history should be more represented in all grades of school, as well as in history textbooks to avoid underrepresentation.

Students also talked about how teachers should be trained in order to properly teach African American topics without offending anyone. They believe that teachers should undergo diversity training, or “implicit bias training.” Implicit bias training includes exposing teachers to their implicit biases and training them to adjust their patterns of thinking so they may get rid of any discriminatory behaviors.

“Teachers got to ask questions and ask how they could improve and make race discussions less awkward, which is beneficial to both students and teachers.” Sadri said.

The meeting was streamed live on Youtube, so the representatives were able to respond to questions posed by students and teachers in the live chat.

“I think that Forsyth county is pretty good on race relations compared to other countries, but that shouldn’t stop us from talking about it. There can still be problems and addressing those problems is what will make our schools even better.” Sadri said.

Despite having a virtual meeting this year, the Student Race Relations Forum managed to open up a dialogue for the youth to be able to speak their minds and meet with others who have similar opinions.