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Robert Woodson to offer conservative view on race in Weber State visit

By Tim Vandenack - | Apr 7, 2023

Image supplied, Weber State University

Civil Rights advocate Robert Woodson of the Woodson Center, left in the photo, and a contingent of conservative African-American Utahns will speak at Weber State on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. The image is from the flier promoting the event.

OGDEN — Conservative civil rights advocate Robert Woodson is coming to Weber State, offering a counterpoint to the March 30 presentation by Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The 1619 Project and a New York Times Magazine writer.Woodson, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Woodson Center, will be joined by a contingent of conservative African Americans from Utah. The presentation, free and open to the public, will be held Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Val A. Browning Center on the Weber State’s main campus in Ogden.

“We’re always thinking far in advance about the speakers we bring in, thoughtful about representing the diversity of perspectives that exists in our community,” Weber State spokesperson Bryan Magaña said in an email to the Standard-Examiner. “We’re excited to host Mr. Woodson and the other panelists to help continue these important conversations.”

Woodson — who helped launch 1776 Unites as a counterpoint to a school curriculum modeled after The 1619 Project — will be the main speaker. Joining him will be Letroy Woods of Path Forward Utah, John Harvey of the Modern Conservative podcast, Cari Bartholomew, Salt Lake Community College instructor Lucy Shirisia and Ron Williams, a bodybuilder.

Talking about race can be fraught with peril, and Jamie Renda, who helped organize the event, hopes it serves as a means to find common ground in the debate on the issue. Renda is co-founder of Conservative Americans for Equality and Path Forward Utah, which are sponsors of the event in conjunction with Weber State. Shirisia, Harvey and Bartholomew are CAFE board members.

“I think we have to find the things we all have in common,” Renda said.

The Woodson Center aims to bolster families, reduce crime and revitalize “underserved communities” by empowering local leaders, according to its website. Among its underlying principles in problem-solving efforts are involving those adversely impacted by the issues to be addressed, applying market economy fundamentals and tapping into faith-based and “value-generating” organizations.

In her Weber State address, Hannah-Jones, who is Black, noted the mixed sentiments she felt on learning that the first Africans to reach the shores of what is now the United States arrived in 1619, a year before The Mayflower, the ship carrying a group of pilgrims from England. On the one hand, she felt pride knowing African lineage dates back so far. But she also felt short-changed since the 1619 landing, where the title of The 1619 Project comes from, isn’t typically taught in schools.

She noted that history can be “manipulated” and “managed,” leaving out events like the 1619 arrival of the White Lion, the ship carrying those first Africans. She also maintains that U.S. Blacks are owed financial reparations given the slave labor that figured in the nation’s development and the legacy of slavery that lives on in the form of racial inequality.

Renda, by contrast, warns against creating “oppressor and oppressed” classes, offering a hint of the different message likely to come out at Tuesday’s gathering. “Anytime you keep someone in a victim mindset, you destroy their lives,” she said.

Likewise, Woodson drew contrasts between The 1619 Project and 1776 Unites in comments to the National Review in 2020.

The seeming message of The 1619 Project, Woodson told the National Review, is “that America should be defined as a racist society where all whites are culpable and guilty of having privilege and therefore should be punished and all blacks are victims that should be compensated.”

The 1776 Unites curriculum, according to its website, puts a focus on “voices in the black community who celebrate black excellence, discourage victimhood culture and showcase the millions of black Americans who have prospered by embracing the founding ideals of America.”

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