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Dallas Faces Race brings national equality conference to the South for first time

Dallas hosts a wide a variety of conferences each year, but the Big D has never been home to the flagship conference of the Applied Research Center, a 30-year-old national racial justice organization. In fact, no city in the South has. That’s all going to change in 2014, when the Facing Race conference comes to Dallas.

The newly formed nonprofit Dallas Faces Race announced the news May 16 at the Dallas Black Dance Theater. The kickoff event drew more than 150 attendees from across the city, including DISD superintendent Mike Miles and trustee Bernadette Nutall, SMU human rights professor Rick Halperin, education pioneer Rosemary Perlmeter, social entrepreneurs Pam Gerber, Sharon Lyle, Cynthia Yung and Christian Yazdanpanah, and Florencia Velasco Fortner of The Concilio.

A joint venture between the Boone Family Foundation and the Embrey Family Foundation, Dallas Faces Race aims to start a sustainable forum on race in order to increase equity and create change.

Rinku Sen, president of the Applied Research Center, spoke about her own racial awakening as an Indian immigrant who came to America at the age of 5.

“I grew up as a person who really did not want to see race,” she said.

When Sen was in college, her friends had to have an intervention to get her to attend a race rally after a black student was beaten up by two white people.

“That was the moment I understood that being an American isn’t about looking like Marcia Brady,” Sen said.

With Dallas Faces Race, the goal is to give people grace and room to learn. There will be a series of training events leading up to the conference such as a webinar on racism in the South and a workshop on racial justice leadership.

Sen and others talked about separating racial intention from racial impact, especially with regard to the effect of race in education.

“We need a sense of urgency about racial equality in education,” Florencia Velasco Fortner said. “The clock is ticking and the majority of our children are not graduating high school ready to succeed.”