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The traveling exhibit “RACE: Are We So Different?” will be on display at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie from Oct. 10 of this year to Jan. 25, 2015, hosted by the Museum and the YWCA Evanston/North Shore. Developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum
of Minnesota, this is the first national
exhibition to tell the stories of race from the biological, cultural and historical points of view.
At a breakfast press conference at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on March 13, Leila Schnarr of the trade and reference publisher’s Community Investment Council said the exhibit is “one that will have a profound effect on all of us and our community.”
Before and throughout the duration of the exhibit the YWCA and the Holocaust Museum will offer conversations, cultural events about race, a Scholar Series, teacher trainings and local government workshops. The Evanston Public Library has just kicked off its series “11 Months of African American History,” and in April the YWCA will host the annual Stand Against Racism.
YWCA CEO Karen Singer said, “As you know, eliminating racism is core to the mission of the YWCA. Understanding how our community and institutions have been and are affected by racism … is no easy task. … [The exhibit provides] a unique opportunity to catalyze and engage the community. This broad community conversation is central to our mission. …The partnership [between the YWCA and the Holocaust Museum] provides an opportunity not only to expand the conversation, but also to support others in deepening their understanding of how this socially constructed notion of ‘race’ impacts us all.”
Noreen Brand, director of training and public programs at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, said she felt the exhibit can lead to conversations about one’s personal identity – “about identifying who you are.” She referred to U.C.L.A. Professor Robin D.G. Kelley’s statement that “race is not about how you look, it is about how people assign meaning to how you look.”
Eileen Heinemann, director of racial justice programs at the YWCA, said that seeing the exhibit will offer “powerful individual experiences. [But] our mission is not going to be fulfilled by individuals having a powerful experience. We must [reach] all across whatever barriers we have allowed to exist. The exhibit can be
a catalyst to do some of that work.”
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said that even though Evanston celebrates its diversity, “that does not mean we have solved the problem of race. We are still working on it. We need this [exhibit]. We are a community that is always, always trying.”
“The idea of ‘race’ has been used historically to justify mistreatment of people and even genocide,” said Arielle Weininger, chief curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Illinois Holocaust Museum. “The promotion of human rights is a vital part of the mission of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, and so we are thrilled to co-present RACE, an exhibition that challenges visitors of all ages and backgrounds to discover how race operates in their lives.”
“The exhibit encourages us to confront racism as it exists in our own lives,” said Ms. Heinemann, adding. “It is not about guilt or shame; it is about understanding the power of the concept.”
Community Conversations on Racial Equity will hold “Communicating Across Differences,” 6:30-8:30 p.m. on April 29. At the same time on May 1, “Race
& Racism: The Lived Experience;” May 6, “Exploring Privilege and Internalized
Racism;” and May 8, “Racial Equity: What Does It Look Like and How Do
We Get There?”
Details about these events can be found at www.ywca.org/evanston. Information about programs and other exhibitions at the Illinois Holocaust Museum can be found at ilholocaustmuseum.org and Information about the exhibit can be found at www.understandingrace.org.