The 2019 Othering & Belonging Conference was held April 8–10, 2019 in Oakland, California.  Attendees found a wide range of valuable experiences from attending the conference. Of these, three themes stood out— content, connection, and inspiration. When asked what one word summarized their conference experience, the most common responses was "Inspiring." The goals of the 2019 Conference included:

  • Participants walk away with models, tools, and strategies for operationalizing belonging. 
  • Participants explore the concepts of "bridging and breaking" and learn to apply strategies that expand the circle of human concern and create shared, empathetic identities.
  • Participants expand their "we" through engaging with ideas and models that affirmatively advance belonging.
  • Participants make clear connections and comparisons between local and global realities in order to build a truly international movement of belonging.

O&B Conference 2019 Agenda


Indigenous Opening, with Vincent Medina, Louis Trevino

Keynote: Disability and Belonging with Haben Girma

People with disabilities represent one of the largest identity groups, numbering over 1.3 billion worldwide. All of our bodies change as we age, yet very few spaces are designed to be accessible. Prioritizing inclusion for people with disabilities provides a better experience for all members. Join us for an engaging presentation on Haben’s journey as a disability rights advocate and how we can make our communities more inclusive.

Keynote Performance: "Know Respect" - Supaman Christian Takes Gun Parrish

Supaman’s one of a kind presentation combines Native American culture, comedy, and urban hip hop culture which captivates listeners. The communicative talent along with the compassion that exudes from his music allows him to connect with people from all walks of life. His uncanny ability to motivate, encourage, and inspire through dance, and hip hop music keeps him at the forefront among his contemporaries, earning the respect of his community and generation.

Keynote Address with Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah

Pulitzer Prize winning essayist and cultural critic Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah will explore belonging through the lens of our multidimensional culture and her ongoing research into the human condition.

Widening the Playing Field: From Athlete to Activist - Michael Bennett

Egg Drop Soup - Dawn-Lyen Gardner

Actor Dawn-Lyen Gardner peers into her relationship with identity, story and community, amidst the challenges—and the gifts—of self-inclusion.

Making Belonging with Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Michael Bennett, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, moderated by Jeff Chang

Culture can help us become who we are and it can also bring us into an alienating saming. When those who inhabit powerful cultural institutions— sports, music, Hollywood, literature—approach their work with a fearless sense of becoming, they expand the boundaries of belonging by deepening our understanding of the multidimensionality of humanness. The presenters in this panel conversation have explored the processes of othering and belonging through platforms of different types of cultural production. They have challenged assumptions about identity by fearlessly and vulnerably approaching their work. They have asked us to see themselves, those that they write about, or those they portray, from many different angles, often unvarnished and always more complex. And in these asks they raise hard questions about our willingness to move past a hopeful or abstract belonging and into one that is joyfully, intensely, and often, uncomfortably human.


Keynote: "Building Belonging in a Time of Othering", with john a. powell

In a period of turmoil and growing inequality, how do we build a better world? A belonging paradigm can move us from a world of othering to a world of hope. How can we teach ourselves to bridge difference in a way that respects our identities but helps people come together? Haas Institute Director john a. powell shares his vision for a world of belonging, and how to get there.

Keynote Panel: "Authoritarianism Rising: The Threat to Democracy and Diversity," with Dorian Warren, Miriam Juan-Torres, Michael Tesler, moderated by john a. powell

Rising authoritarianism presents a challenge to democracy, but also to diversity and pluralism. It is associated with aversion to change and discomfort with diversity, and with fixed, rather than open or fluid worldviews. The success of authoritarian leaders in recent years across the globe, from Duterte to Bolsonaro, comes with direct assaults on marginalized communities. How do we understand the dynamics that bring such leaders to power, and how do we challenge them?  This panel will explore the dynamics of a politics based on "us v. them";  the use of rhetoric and authoritarian control as a form of social control over a manufactured and manipulated other; and, using both historical and contemporary examples, how authoritarianism is  incompatible with democracy.

Keynote Artists Talk: "Belonging in Community," with Brett Cook

Brett Cook will lead attendees through the creation of a rubric on community and share how this practice of reflection and action has guided his creative practice over two decades.

Room for All of Us: Building inclusive Societies - Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson

Diversity is a fact; inclusion is a choice. How can all people be truly included in our modern democratic societies? What are the transformers to help people belong – especially if they are immigrants, refugees, or not middle class? Public health care, public education, access to cultural institutions, and introductions to nature are all pathways to belonging that have been effective in Canada. By deliberately building inclusive societies we create the foundation for healthy societies.

Global Migration: The Right to Stay, The Right to Move, and The Right to Belong, with Mamadou Goita, Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, moderated by Cathi Tactaquin

Multiple crises around the world have fueled global forced migration and the expulsion of a record number of people. As these crises intensify, the plight of millions of people are met with inadequate and inhumane responses by many political leaders, nation-states, and international bodies who hold the most power and resources to provide belonging to those seeking refuge and to migrate. This panel will shed light on the drivers of mass global displacement while also underscoring the question of who belongs. Panelists will discuss the efforts of migrants and their allies in Africa, Latin America, North America, and other regions to assert the right to remain, the right to migrate, and the right to belong.

Partnerships to Advance Belonging, with Alexis McGill Johnson, J. Phillip Thompson, and Jeff Raikes

How do deep coalition-building efforts strengthen our mutual efforts towards equity? Three leaders from government, philanthropy, and advocacy institutions will have a dialogue about their experience bridging across different sectors. They will explore the challenges of bridging due to political polarization, access to resources, and will discuss questions of power and perception. What is gained by building partnerships in belonging across multiple levels and with different communities?

Keynote Panel: "Will the Future be Feminist? Re-emerging Struggles for Belonging" with Linda Sarsour, Saru Jayaraman, Morning Star Gali, Charlene Sinclair, moderated by Nina Simons

If feminism is central to our collective vision for belonging, how are feminist leaders guiding us to reimagine how we navigate and remake the structural, cultural, and political institutions that shape our lives? Women must not only overcome persistent misogyny, violence, and othering, but differently-situated groups of women struggle with one another to be seen, heard, and trusted. How do we surface and deal with underlying tensions that threaten to fracture and break our efforts, and instead strengthen the work of a fully inclusive feminism that embraces belonging for all people and the earth? This discussion will feature a conversation on what can we learn from feminism, feminist approaches to leadership, and feminist meaning-making that are confronting the stranglehold of patriarchy, white supremacy, and corporate capitalism, and moving us instead towards a politics of bridging and belonging that enables us to live meaningful, regenerative, and fulfilling lives.


Opening Music Aswat Ensemble

Aswat is the Bay Area’s premier Arab music ensemble. True to Zawaya’s commitment to pluralism and inclusion, Aswat is multiracial and multi-ethnic, and reaches out to the community with folkloric, classical, contemporary, and sacred Arab music. Aswat’s doors remain open to all who want to participate in the exciting, enriching exchange between Arab Americans and other communities through the universal language of music.

Bridging Generations - with Casey Camp-Horinek, Eryn Wise, and Thomas Lopez, Jr.

The challenges of today have roots in much longer histories and systems, just as the challenges of tomorrow will be shaped by what we do today. This intergenerational conversation will explore the differences and similarities that bridge two of the most powerful Indigenous-led movements for justice and protection of the earth; the American Indian Movement and Standing Rock. How have today’s young leaders learned from elders, and what can elders do to help grow the work of the next generation of leaders? How does moving gender and sexuality to the forefront expand and strengthen these efforts? What are the things that need to be let go of and what lessons are urgent to re-learn today?

"From Resistance to Renewal: Building An Economy Based on Belonging" - with Manuel Pastor

Our economic rules are generally based on the notion that self-interest and competition are natural human impulses, with conservatives suggesting that markets will channel those forces into equilibrium and others arguing to constrain individual and business action with appropriate state intervention. But humans are not just self-interested; we all have a desire to belong and connect in community. What would it mean to build a new solidarity economics? How would such a new economic theory and narrative play out in terms of organizing and change, norms and practices, politics and policy? How could we build such an economy at scale—and what does it mean for our contemporary crises of inequality, separation, and fragmentation?

joyUS justUS - Contra-Tiempo

An urban Latin dance theater experience that takes on joy as the ultimate expression of resistance. Whenever humans have survived immense hardship and injustice, prevailing with their humanity intact, the presence of joy­­ or the knowingness and celebration of our true beauty and power­­ has always been at the root. This excerpt of "joyUS justUS" reclaims the dominant deficit-based narrative of people of color in this country and flips it on its head.

The Urgency of Bridging- Ben McBride, Jennifer Martinez, Desmond Meade, Neil Volz, moderated by Aparna Shah

The highly politicized fragility of bonds across race, class, gender identity, geography, movements and imagination require the courage of unapologetically crossing lines of difference. Can we bridge fast and far enough to meet the urgent challenges of the day—climate change, rising authoritarianism, white supremacy, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and misogyny? The speakers will present examples of their efforts to bridge across differences in their work toward building a more expansive "we."

Moral Fusion Organizing: The Hope of America’s Possibility- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Rev. Barber will give a keynote about the work to build a broad-based grassroots movement to confront systemic racism, poverty, environmental devastation, the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism in America today.

Post Conference Report

You can read more about the 2019 Conference in the 2019 report.


The 2019 Conference Featured:

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Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II

Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour

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Supaman Christian Takes Gun Parrish

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Michael Bennett

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The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

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Haben Girma

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Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah