New Roanoke group seeks to meet people where they’re at, educate on race relations

SERV hosting monthly webinars and encouraging people to research different topics

ROANOKE, Va. – As race relations continue to make headlines in America, more people, particularly white people, are starting to open their minds and try to see things from other viewpoints.

But that’s not always easy to do, particularly if you’re surrounded by a lot of opposition. That’s why a new Roanoke-based organization is trying to meet people where they are and encourage them to become allies in the fight for justice.

Decca Knight is the founder of Standing for Equity in the Roanoke Valley, which is asking people to use their privilege for good.

“It started a little bit before all these events, but we really put it into high gear here more recently,” said Knight. “One of the biggest things that we want people to do is get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and what we mean by that is start having discussions around race.”

Some argue America is experiencing a racial awakening like never before and people want to help, but might not be comfortable to jumping head first into a protest.

SERV wants to bridge that gap, meeting people in a more casual, lower-intensity setting with group book readings and online webinars.

It’s the ABC’s of being an ally. Last month’s webinar was titled Implicit Bias 101, this month’s is Systemic Racism 101.

“We know that a lot of times as people of privilege, and particularly white people, it’s a very difficult thing to do, and so we want to start encouraging those conversations and start encouraging people to get uncomfortable,” Knight said.

The group is working with Roanoke Vice Mayor Joe Cobb. He said Knight is putting a spotlight on the fact that equal doesn’t mean equitable and serving a need for people who are interested in learning more but don’t have a lot of resources available.

“Because many people are just becoming aware of some of this language, of some of these issues, of new understanding and awareness about what all of this means,” Cobb said.

SERV also posts daily seed thoughts on social media, encouraging people to learn something new everyday.

Knight said she wants to meet people at a place that they’re comfortable with, and highlight the fact that these things aren’t black and white.

“Having people kind of own that privilege and own that bias and understand how that influences how you operate in the world and just kind of challenging people on different levels,” Knight said.

The city of Roanoke is also working to strengthen its diversity efforts.

Cobb said council will present its new strategic plan for the city soon and it has specific points within it focusing on making equity a priority.

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