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Town Hall Seattle: Arts & Culture Series

Town Hall’s Arts & Culture series elevates the voices of local artists while bringing world-renowned cultural icons to Seattle audiences. The series celebrates music, photography, sculpture, philosophy, heritage, and traditions around the world that enrich our lives.

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Nov 4, 2021

When tackling topics of systemic racism, it’s all too easy to build narratives centered around white men and toxic masculinity. But white women have long held seats at the table— from their pre-Civil War ability to buy and sell enslaved people to the million-plus women members of the KKK, and beyond— as systems of white supremacy were built and maintained. We cannot skirt around the gendered roles of white women in systemic racism if we, as a society, hope to dismantle systems of oppression. We need to make space for a deeper understanding; Seattle anti-racist facilitators Ilsa Govan and Tilman Smith offer just such a space in their new book, What’s Up with White Women? Unpacking Sexism and White Privilege in Pursuit of Racial Justice. 

Govan and Smith offer a frank yet compassionate guide for white women interested in becoming more effective in cross-cultural, anti-racist practices. The authors dive into stories of white women’s experiences with sexism, racism, and white privilege and discuss how white women harm BIPOC (and themselves) by colluding with systems of oppression. They cover how white women often hijack conversations on race. And they provide guiding questions and actions for strengthening anti-racism practices. After all, the opportunity for deeper understanding comes with a powerful companion: the unique opportunity to take action.

Ilsa Govan has extensive experience as a facilitator, consultant, writer, and social justice activist. As Co-Founder of Cultures Connecting, she has led conversations about racial equity at workshops and conferences across the country. Prior to Cultures Connecting, Ilsa worked as an Equity and Race Specialist for Seattle Public Schools where she was tasked with addressing institutional racism in a large organization. She is the co-author of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Strategies for Facilitating Conversations on Race. Ilsa is deeply invested in examining how her own identity influences her interactions with others, particularly through the lens of privilege and oppression.

Tilman Smith has been an educator and project manager for over thirty-five years, serving as a teacher, administrator, college instructor, caucus facilitator, trainer, and coach. She has facilitated workshops throughout the country on the topics of racial justice, white privilege, internalized sexism, and internalized white superiority. Currently, Tilman partners with government, educational, and non-profit agencies as a race-based caucus organizer, facilitator, trainer, and executive coach. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in French and History from the University of Colorado and her Master’s Degree in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College Northwest.

Karena Hooks is a Leader, Organizer, Transformational Coach, Mentor, Educator, and Facilitator with over 20 years of experience working with individuals and organizations at all stages of life. Her roots run deep in the fields of Social Justice, Organizational Development and Leadership, and Community-based Systems Change for nonprofit/non-governmental, public, and private sectors globally. She serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbia University’s School of Social Work online program and was recently featured on KING 5’s award-winning series, Facing Race.

Buy the Book: What's Up with White Women?: Unpacking Sexism and White Privilege in Pursuit of Racial Justice (Paperback) from Elliott Bay Books 

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