Deina Diaz returned to her alma mater, N.C. State University, eight months ago to learn more about group facilitation from a former professor-turned-mentor.
Under the tutelage of Rupert W. Nacoste, a social psychologist who teaches classes on interpersonal relationship development and interdependence and race, Diaz is training toward her own expertise on how we interact and build relationships with people who are different than us.
Diaz will practice what she knows during “RACE: Are We So Different?” an award-winning exhibition opening for six months April 22 through Oct. 22 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Diaz is among 25 people who will facilitate a Cultural Conversation, a weekend feature of the interactive exhibit that asks us to explore race through three lenses – science, history and personal experiences of race and racism – rather than difference-based discrimination and oppression.
“I honestly have fallen in love with the work,” said Diaz, 24, who graduated from NCSU three years ago with a degree in psychology.
“At this moment, the exhibit and the Cultural Conversations are coming at the right time, when I feel right now we’re almost in need of another civil rights movement,” Diaz said. “The Cultural Conversations will give people an opportunity to speak about inner issues or thoughts, and ask questions. My hope is there will be some conflict resolution.”
“RACE,” a traveling exhibit, was developed eight years ago by the American Anthropological Association and the Science Museum of Minnesota, with funding from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation.
Museum-goers can tour the exhibit for free, thanks to more than $300,000 contributed by the A. J. Fletcher Foundation, the Duke Energy Foundation, the city of Raleigh and the Wells Fargo Foundation.
Natalie Bullock Brown, an assistant professor of film and broadcast media at Saint Augustine’s University, is among four panelists who will open the lecture series May 16 at 7 p.m. with “Closing the RACE Gap: A Discussion on Health, Wealth, Education and Media.”
The time is ripe for “RACE” to reinvigorate the tough conversation we’ve all gotten good at avoiding, Brown said.
“There’s so much about race that is critical to our ability as a country to move forward, and there’s so much we do not talk about – all of us,” added Brown, who also teaches classes in black popular culture and women’s and gender studies at N.C. State. “White folks have their blind spots, and there’s a lot black people don’t talk about, either, but black people cannot affect change in things that white people are not willing to acknowledge, let alone think about.
“The ‘RACE’ exhibit, at the very least, keeps the conversation – on the idea of race and the fact that we need to talk about it – before us.”
During the speaker series, Brown, who is producing a documentary film, will focus on how race is represented in the media, zeroing in on television shows and movies, how black people are depicted in them, how it differs today from traditional depictions, and what needs to happen next.
As a Cultural Conversation facilitator, Diaz, who grew up in Duplin County, will focus on one word: respect.
“Love and acceptance are big things; they take time,” she said. “But we can all respect one another. You don’t have to agree with or even immediately love your neighbor, but once you respect your neighbor, hopefully that will bring acceptance and, eventually, love for one another.
“This ‘RACE’ exhibit can bring about respect for everybody’s race and differences, and that is my main goal.”