I have been sitting all day trying to figure out how to express my thoughts on my 1st time attending the Facing Race conference. I mean, I have gone to a lot of conferences and conventions, and I do mean A LOT. I do pretty much all the west coast comic conventions (and speak at many of them). I also do a rather large number of educational conferences as well, but Facing Race feels… different.
Facing Race describes itself as “the largest inter-generational, and multicultural conference on racial justice in the U.S.”, which after attending, I do not doubt. Their website boasts that live attendance is generally over 4000 visitors. I am fairly certain that they hit that many guests online today.
What struck me most, I think, was that most of the organizers, speakers, and event leadership were BIPOC, and mostly women/femmes. As I mentioned before, I go to a lot of conferences, but this is almost never the case. The only conferences that I have seen with similar leadership are The Women in Comics Con and ITOC. Either of these conferences, while phenomenal, are quite the same scale as Facing Race. It was encouraging to see so many like-minded folx gathered to address the issues surrounding race and justice in our nation.
There is honestly, a lot that I could say here, but I will try and keep it brief. The feel of the conference was so electric! This year, we have all been in online conferences and trainings, but I have yet to personally see the energy in one that I saw in Facing Race today. The conference platform “Hopin” that they used shows you how many people are logged in at any given moment as well as how many are in each room/breakout session and the chat logs to match. This gave the conference a much more “live” feel. That chats running on the side of every room were so engaging! Sometimes it was hard to decide if you wanted to listen to the speaker or read that chat roll!
This space was filled with SO MANY BIPOC folx and allies! I speak at many conferences on equity and justice. There is usually so much tension wondering how your audience is going to take your message. This was such a welcome environment, where you knew everyone there came for the same reasons, to grow and fight injustice. It was beautiful!
I would also be doing an injustice if I didn’t mention that they had a DJ doing sets. DJ KayKay 47 KILLED IT! Her set was phenomenal! Also, Facing Race pulled off one of the things I miss most from live conferences… a swag bag! I mean, we even got coloring pages, y’all. I am not disappointed.
As with any conference, there will be some unavoidable downsides. The problem with online conferencing is when guests are all over the nation (or world) you are going to have to privilege some time zones over others. I am on the west coast of the US. This conference was started at 11:30 am est … on a Wednesday morning. I couldn’t attend day 1 because it was in the middle of my workday. At 8:30 in the morning, I am in the middle of teaching class. I will miss most of tomorrow for the same reason. Thankfully, they are arranging to send out session recording o attendees so we can see what we missed or re-watch what we loved.
Also, as with any digital platform, there were glitches and outages during streaming. With a crowd that large it was inevitable. Facing Race, however, can’t really be held responsible for that. They had no way of knowing in advance that this would be an issue. The HOPIN platform should really work on their servers to be able to manage processing so much for such large groups if they want to continue their business. The interruptions really were a drag.
Overall, I am really enjoying Facing Race. I have some personal reflections on panels, speakers, and guests, but I’ll save it for another post. I got a lot out of my 1st day there, and I am sure that I will get more tomorrow (or at least when I get the recordings because I will be at work). I am truly looking forward to what they offer next.