Local activist hosts an open air forum to discuss race relations

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Augusta (WJBF)- A local artist and activist organized an open air discussion about race relations. Almost two dozen people went to Pendleton King Park Saturday morning to participate in that conversation.

Leah Smith, also known as Leah Savant, is a human resources professional, artist and civil rights activist. She says that amid the protests, having interracial conversations about racism is crucial.

“I do think it’s absolutely necessary that we have these types of forums where we can speak candidly in a safe space, because, an example I like to use is, it’s the equivalent of your professor giving you an assignment. Here’s all the resources, do what you need to do, turn in your paper. As opposed to a professor that gives you the resources and dialogues with you about it,” said Savant.

Smith is biracial and sees it as a unique platform to educate. She believes that having that safe space for people to discuss their thoughts and concerns is a major step to change.

“I’ve always been someone who can facilitate conversations, build trust, build collaboration, so i figured why not do that there. Having conversations where you challenge one another, and you challenge some ideologies that might cut you in the moment, but if it’s gonna course correct, I think it’s absolutely necessary,” Savant said.

The group, mostly women, but included some men, focused on discussions centered around being an ally or an accomplice as they prefer to call it. They also talked about white privilege and micro aggression.

After they talked about those topics, organizers opened it up for questions. Attendees were not overly shy about asking those questions. They said they want to ask and learn, because unless they do, they will never understand why certain things are harmful. Points were made that any type of prejudice was not helpful to a cause that aims at bringing people together.

“But it’s important for us as accomplices–I hate to used the word allies as well–to call it out within our circles, within our work places, within, you know, our communities. And force ourselves to have these uncomfoprtable conversations and force people to see that this has been going on for way longer than they had ever imagined,” said Angel Higbee, who attended the discussion.

Savant says she got the idea for the forum when more of her Caucasian friends started asking questions after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. She says that there are many resources for people to educate themselves, but having the hard conversations is also important.

“Well Honey, just like Saul became Paul, the scales fell off and I need the scales to continue to fall off. So here we are now and we want to do the work now and build. It’s about bridging and working together. We gotta come together,” said Savant.

Savant says that in order for change to happen these types of conversations have to continue. She is planning more of these forums but no dates are set.

For more information on future forums you can visit Savant’s website or her Facebook page.

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