Conference Review - POC Sessions Nov 2020

november 2020 poc sessions sherri tapp Nov 16, 2020

Conference Review: Practitioners of Color Sessions
Written by Sherri Tapp, Membership Outreach and Diversity Director, SIETAR USA

Greetings! I had the distinct pleasure to attend not one, but both of the POC sessions at this year's SIETAR USA’s inaugural virtual conference.  POC is often interpreted as the acronym for “people of color,” and that is accurate, however, for the purposes of our conference, it stands for “Practitioners of Color”. The first POC session was ninety minutes long, and the second was a deeper dive of two and a half hours! Both sessions were rich, filled with good and not-so-good experiences, lessons learned, compassion, encouragement, tenacity, and perseverance. 

We, at SIETAR USA always work to continue to grow and improve, so those in attendance saw a much different and enhanced set of sessions at this years’ conference than were available at our 2019 conference in Atlanta.  Dr. Joel Brown served as a masterful moderator for both sessions.  One of the things we happily resolved was that everyone is welcome in the POC sessions!  There were some in attendance who were unsure as to which session they should attend as they share blended identities, ethnicities, and nationalities so it was a pleasure to assure them that they were welcome in this group!  Dr. Brown thoughtfully opened each session by leading us in a relaxation/centering exercise which really helped us to breathe, release any anxious feelings and open ourselves to enjoy this wonderful experience.  

The fact that there were about 12 participants in each POC session was ideal in that it  really allowed us to take the time to lean in and listen and hear from everyone else without rushing.  After generally introducing ourselves as to where in the United States we live and work, and the types of work we engage in, we allowed each other to share some of the pain that goes along with the work of interculturalists of color, while at the same time voicing our commitment to continue this important and necessary work.  We discussed some of the micro aggressions and macro-aggressions all of us experience and encouraged each other to remember to make self-care a priority.  We talked about the importance of having a “safe place” to be who we are and talk about our work as the work we do with the identities we share can be at times very emotionally, and psychologically exhausting.   We met several POCs that were new to SIETAR USA and learned about some of the strategies other interculturalists use in their venues.  There were so many new faces that we got to meet and become acquainted with!  

One of the benefits of the POC sessions was that it provides us with an opportunity to be refreshed and recharged.  It was so nice not to have to be “on” during the POC sessions.  The “exhausted minority” is a real phenomenon that many of us have experienced as well. This phenomenon may occur when POC are called into service and sometimes “pressed” to provide information and education that could easily be gained by reading the readily available literature that exists. 

Humor is an important element of our work and was important in the POC sessions as well.  It has been said that a “merry heart” is like medicine and I agree wholeheartedly! I look forward to checking in with some of the new POCs I met as we continue to move…forward.