Local students discuss race and equity during annual forum

The city's Human Relations Department has been hosting the Student Race Relations Forum for the past 20 years.

Local students discuss race and equity during annual forum
September 30
14:49 2020

Students from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County high schools came together virtually last week to share their thoughts on race relations and equity across the country and in their respective schools, during the annual Student Race Relations Forum. 

The forum, which is hosted by the city’s Human Relations Commission/Human Relations Department (WSHRC/HRD), is designed to give young people throughout the community a platform to openly share their perspectives and has been held annually for nearly 20 years. “Each year we hold this forum so that we can benefit from hearing from our youth,” said Wanda Allen-Abraha, WSHRC/HRD director. She said our youth have a lot of important insight and experiences that need to be shared, and older generations should value what they have to say. 

According to Allen-Abraha, students were selected by their guidance counselors and every high school in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County was represented. 

“This is something we look forward to every year,” Allen-Abraha said. “We do think it’s very important that we provide a safe space and platform for our communities’ young people to talk about some really important topics.” 

To jumpstart the conversation, moderators, Porsche Smith, a senior at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy, and James Taylor III, a senior at Early College of Forsyth County, asked participants a series of questions that focused on race. One of the early questions asked students if they felt they were affected by the racial justice movement that has swept through the country in recent months.

Prince Thon, a junior at Walkertown, said when it comes to the Black Live Matter movement, he has a lot of friends who have different opinions than he does and at times that can be hard to deal with.  

“I think it has put a toll on everyone I believe,” Thon continued. “It just makes me feel very sad because this is the way we have to live and this is what we have to go through to find equality in our communities.”

Zoe Adunoluwa, a senior at Early College of Forsyth County, said the past few months has forced her to reevaluate her friends. She said at a place in time where race is dominating conversations across the country, it is important that minority cultures create spaces where they feel safe, even if that means losing a few friends. 

“What I’ve been trying to learn for myself and what I’ve been trying to implore the people around me to understand … especially if you are part of these minority groups, is that not everyone is going to hold space for you so you have to do it yourself. And you really have to reevaluate who you’re going to keep around and what sort of people you want to have relationships with,” Adunoluwa continued. “We all hear about leveling up and becoming your best self; well a part of that is the people around you.”

 During the virtual forum, Mayor Allen Joines applauded the students for having the courage to speak openly on such an important topic. He said we can learn a lot from the young people in our community. 

“I can’t think of a more important time and more important topic to have,” Joines said. “I’m so encouraged every year when we hear from these young people who are discussing frankly, and openly and candidly, issues that they see out there every day … we can learn a lot from these young people.” 

The Student Race Relations Forum can be viewed in its entirety on the City of Winston-Salem YouTube channel. For more information on the forum or the Human Relations Department, visit the city’s website.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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