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Bethel AME Church To Host Anti-Racism Workshop

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Courtesy American Friends Service Committee
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Wesley Peters is a 17-year-old student at Pittsburgh Creative and Performance Arts School, and said he encounters racism on a regular basis.

“As a young, African-American male, I’ve experienced racism and other microaggressions throughout my daily life,” Peters said.

Peters will be one of around 100 youths to attend the Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) Weekend this Friday through Sunday at Bethel AME Church in the Hill District. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, the event will target issues such as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” and the history of racial inequalities in the United States.

Peters defined “microaggressions” as small forms of racism in speech or action that indicate some form of racial prejudice.

“[It would be like] if someone said, ‘Oh, you’re smart for a black kid’ or something like that,” he said.

The “School-to-Prison Pipeline” refers to an ongoing trend of criminalization of young students, particularly students of color, who are “funneled out” of schools and into the juvenile detention system, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

AFSC program director Amanda Gross said this trend can be attributed in part to teacher bias.

“A lot of teachers we have in the public school system in the Pittsburgh area are white women who are coming from rural and suburban backgrounds,” Gross said. “[They] haven’t grown up with a lot of people of color, they have a very different cultural perspective … Black men especially are criminalized in the media and these things play out when they go to make a decision about how to administer discipline in their classroom.”

Pittsburgh itself is a very segregated city, according to Gross.

“It’s really easy in Pittsburgh to grow up as a white person and not interact with very many people of color and to not have authentic relationships with people of color,” Gross said.

She said the “time is ripe” for change as awareness for institutional racism is increasing nationally, and youth can bring about that change.

“I think that the energy is there, especially with the young people I work with every day,” Gross said. “They’re really ready to create change and come together to do that in a way that pushes Pittsburgh forward.”