AWC Seattle members and guests engaged in an hour-long conversation with Sili Savusa, Executive Director of the White Center Community Development Association, at the May 23 program on “Ensuring Effective Communications with Communities of Color.”
Sili provided her insights gained from more than 20 years’ experience dealing with cross-cultural coalition-building and community organizing for social justice issues. The event took place at The Riveter on Capitol Hill.
In her opening remarks, Sili pointed out that the so-called “Seattle Nice” attitude ignores race. She stated that we need to figure out how to have a conversation on race, and build relationships on trust. “We need to get to the point where we can name it,” she stated. “Racism isn’t going anywhere,” she said. “It’s not a quick fix.”
Sili observed that technology doesn’t always enhance communication. She is concerned that it “takes away from our humanity.” She said technology shouldn’t take the place of our ability to interact with each other. Sili pointed out that data reports don’t speak to the heart; we need to talk with people.
“So many things don’t cost a lot to connect,” she said, adding, “One is relationships.” She urges organizations to reach out to people in person, and not just rely on media and social media. Sili discussed local training to address this issue, by the People’s Institute, called “undoing racism.” Another effort, “Equity Matters,” offers technical assistance for organizations such as Nordstrom.
In response to a question about whether she has seen change, Sili replied that she has seen “a lot” and she’s “very hopeful.” She stressed that whatever our job is, we should try to see eye to eye, and undo the mistakes of history. She feels we still have a long way to go, but she remains hopeful.
Sili feels that we can create change, developing messages that resonate and lift people up, and not be so “silo’d” and competitive. She said, “We’re the right people to figure it out.”
Plus, as the younger generations get active, she feels, “With young people, we just need to get out of the way!”