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Villanova University Anti-Racism Event Goes Virtual

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Undoing Racism Day is 10 years strong.

By J.F. Pirro

Now in its 10th year, the CommUNITY Breakfast Collaborative’s Undoing Racism Day has always served as a means for entering into deep conversations about race and its role in the current realities on the Main Line. “Sitting with someone you don’t know while sharing eggs and coffee is an easier way to get into this conversation,” says CBC president Anne Patricia Minicozzi. “More are saying, ‘I need to do more, and I need learn more.’”

Typically held at Villanova University’s Connelly Center, this year’s Sept. 16 event had to be altered due to the pandemic. Participants made their own breakfast at home and attended for free on Zoom. “What’s already made this moment feel different is the role of technology,” says CBC director Rev. Carolyn Cavaness, sixth-year pastor at Bethel AME Church in Ardmore. “Seeing the video of George Floyd put the issue in a completely different light. It added some other color on top of it all.”

The basis for the annual breakfast stems from a nasty incident in Radnor Township 20 years ago between a Black resident and a white police officer. A Community Awareness Committee formed as a result, and a “unity” breakfast began in 2001. When the economy tanked in 2008, the breakfast went missing. A year later, Minicozzi expanded the breakfast into a full-scale event. “We had a 120 attend the first breakfast, and we broke even,” she says.

This year’s virtual breakfast featured a simulation game downloaded from the internet where facilitators and participants examined public policies by playing race cards—property, money and lost-opportunity—opposite those of their own situation. “Try to be what you’re not, and in the end, you see how policies that have been in place for a long time are disadvantageous to Black participants,” says Minicozzi. “You see systematic racism built into policies.”

For the second half of the breakfast, Crystal Lucky, associate dean of undergraduate studies of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and an associate professor of English at Villanova, led in-depth panel discussions on how to dismantle systematic racism. This year’s theme—“A Decade of Dialogue on Racism: Where Do We Go From Here?”—echoed the title of a book by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “It really is a national event now,” says Minicozzi, a longtime community activist who also teaches a freshman rhetoric and composition course at Villanova. “I just spoke to an assemblyman in New York about how they can set up what we’re doing. I’m curious to see what they can do.”

The nonprofit CBC has a seven-member board of directors drawn from diverse educational, religious and civic organizations along the Main Line. The organization’s five principles focus on dialogue, education, networking, prayer and action. “It’s not enough even to gather people once a year,” says Cavaness. “We need to help people go into these conversations more frequently in an effort to create a different behavior and an institutional realignment. In light of the crisis, at so many levels it feels like something is different about the conversations now. It’s courageous to converse.”

To learn more, visit communitybreakfast.weebly.com

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