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Race and Power: Keeping it Real Amid the Mess

An Online Experiential Learning Event

May 19-22, 2022

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Online via Zoom


Thursday, May 19, 2022, 3:30 PM
Sunday, May 22, 8:15 PM (EDT)

  • Race
    As a biological concept, race is not valid. In times past, race referenced the supposed ability to distinguish different groups within the human species morphologically (size, shape, structure), genetically, and behaviorally. Modern science has shown that human physical variations tend to overlap among the groups previously thought distinct and that there are no genetic clusters that can distinguish these groups according to conventional race categories. Indeed, even geographically widely separated populations vary from one another in only 6 to 8 percent of their genes. Because of the overlapping of traits (such as skin color, facial features, and eye formation) and the nonexistence of significant genetic differences across groups of humans, modern scientists conclude that the concept of race has no biological validity. With race discredited as a biological concept, scholars now call out race as a cultural intervention reflecting specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on different populations in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15th century. As a social construct, race has been used to expropriate the resources of supposedly distinct and inferior groups, and to otherwise exploit, abuse, rape and murder them. It continues to be used in this way in the United States and across the world, with groups being racialized based on a wide variety of differences including language and immigration status. The social construct of race is essential to white supremacy, an ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior in many ways to people of other races and that therefore, white people should be dominant over other races. White supremacy is the chief paradigm under which white societies operate and the foundation upon which norms, rules, and laws are created.
  • Power
    Power: The ability to act; the ability to cause or prevent an action; the ability to wield force; the ability to make arbitrary decisions and compel obedience; the ability to alter the rights, duties, liabilities, and other legal relations of oneself or of others; the discretion to act or not act; the ability to achieve purpose; the influence that is created by the relationship between interests and resources. Systemic Power: The ability to access and/or control those institutions sanctioned by the state; the ability to impose a worldview on others and control the ideologies, political rules, and rules for social discourse that we are all socialized to see as normal, natural, and required for a functioning society.
  • Keeping it real
    To speak and otherwise behave in authentic, honest, and genuine ways; to speak to what one sees and hears, without lying or sugarcoating; to not avoid the unpleasantness of what is, to not sidestep it; to speak to the obvious; to not stay silent or change what one has to say in response to group or societal pressures.
  • Mess
    A state of affairs that is confused, muddled, jumbled, and chaotic; a situation that is full of difficulties, problems, and trouble.
to Invitation


Overt and covert dynamics of race and power have us in a mess, both in larger society and in our organizations, communities, families, and selves.  Working effectively in this mess requires courage, authenticity, accountability, and the will to speak to what we see, hear, think, and feel.


“Race and Power: Keeping It Real Amid the Mess” will be an experiential learning event conducted in the Group Relations tradition.  Although referred to as a Group Relations ‘conference’, this event will not feature experts delivering slide presentations to relatively passive learners.  Instead, it will be an opportunity to grapple with its title themes in the context of a temporary organization that participants and staff will co-create.  Within that organization, we will explore together our here-and-now experience of engaging with each other across various roles within a living system.  Focused at the level of the group, we will pay attention to what is happening at both the conscious and unconscious levels.  We will pay particular attention to manifestations of the title themes in our temporary organization as a whole and in its parts, and to connections between the title themes and issues of leadership, authorization, and representation.  We will explore our very human needs, wishes and fears, both rational and irrational, in ways that connect these to race and power.  We will not work with these themes “out there,” but rather “in here” within the groups we form during the event.


In Group Relations conferences focused on race, there repeatedly occur certain patterns of behavior that keep participants and staff from deeper levels of learning, leading to stuckness.  Just a few of these patterns are the attempt to address race as a large societal challenge while ignoring the very human desires, strivings and fears alive in the here and now; the construction of white people as the source and embodiment of all evil; the explicit or implicit request by some white people that BIPOC educate them on race, especially by sharing experiences of pain; the weaponization of experiences of pain, especially in the service of the very human dynamic of competition; and the unwillingness of participants and staff to call out and examine key behaviors observed through the lens of group dynamics when the subgroups enacting those behaviors are BIPOC.  Because we believe that these patterns mirror ones that keep all of us stuck vis-à-vis race in our organizations and communities, the staff of this conference will, for the sake of participant and staff learning, pay particular attention to and call out these patterns as they arise in the here and now. 


Over the course of a four-day event, we cannot solve or end the mess in which overt and covert dynamics of race and power have us.  What we can do is engage in demanding experiential learning that may help us to work more effectively amid the mess by growing our understanding and expanding our options for action.  We invite you to join us on this journey.

to Methodology


This is a different kind of online conference, one in which learning will be primarily through experience. Within a structure provided, participants will co-create a temporary organization and culture, engage with each other in that living system, and continuously reflect on the collective and individual experiences they are having.


Using their experiences, participants will seek to better understand both conscious and unconscious systemic processes encountered in the exercise of power, leadership, authority, and representation, with particular attention to the ways in which these processes connect to race.  By focusing on both conscious and unconscious processes, participants will learn to better see and hear both what is above the surface and what is beneath it.  Participants may find themselves developing new narratives and testing new ways of increasing group and individual effectiveness.

to Opportunities for Learning

Opportunities for Learning

In this conference, participants will have opportunities to:


  • Recognize the experience and dynamics of race and power in an organization. 

  • Learn about both covert and overt group processes through participating in groups that vary in size, structure, and task.

  • Identify underlying patterns of group interaction by forming groups, establishing leadership structures, and relating with other groups and the institution as a whole.

  • Explore how we collectively and individually take up roles, negotiate authority, accomplish tasks, cross borders, and manage anxiety in a changing context.

  • Examine the fluidity of power and authority; the way power, roles, identities, tasks, and boundaries might shift or become more rigid in response to an emergent context. 

  • Understand the difference between the stated task of a group and the task it actually appears to be pursuing.

  • Recognize collective and personal reactions to well-defined authority and clearly delineated boundaries.

  • Learn how varied aspects and perceptions of individual identity such as race, class, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and education level are used by groups with and without the conscious awareness of the individuals involved.

  • Work with competition, collaboration, conflict, coalition-building, envy, delegation, and love. 

  • Understand the relatedness of self and system, and the relatedness of part and whole.

  • Experiment with familiar and unfamiliar roles and with various social behaviors including isolation, autonomy, affiliation, collaboration, and coalition building. 

  • Deepen awareness of one’s own capacity and responsibility to lead or advocate no matter what one’s formal authority roles.

Primary Task/Purpose 

The primary task of this conference is to study conscious and unconscious dynamics arising in the exercise of power, leadership, followership, and authority—and the relatedness of these dynamics to race—as they unfold in the here-and-now through the taking up of roles in a temporary system.

The purpose of this conference is to create opportunities for all participants to gain a better understanding of factors that influence our choices and behavior in groups—especially as connected to race and power—and thus increase our capacity to exercise effective leadership in the transformation of our communities, organizations, and groups.

to Primary Task/Aim/Purpose

Conference Events

to Conference Events

In general, a Group Relations conference offers participants a combination of “here-and-now” events and reflective events. In the “here-and-now” events, participants study what is going on in the moment, paying particular attention to unconscious dynamics and looking at the group-as-a-whole, rather than simply intrapersonal or interpersonal dynamics. In the reflective events, participants are invited to reflect on, make meaning of, and apply their experiences. 


The descriptions below provide more detail about various events.  

Small Study Groups

Each participant is assigned to a Small Study Group consisting of about 8-10 participants and 2 consultants. The task of the Small Study Group is to study the exercise of power, leadership, and authority as it unfolds in the here-and-now, and the relatedness of what unfolds to race and power. The Small Study Group is a setting that allows face-to-face interchange.


Large Study Group
The Large Study Group consists of all conference participants and 3-4 consultants. The task of the Large Study Group is the same as that of the Small Study Group, but in a setting that makes face-to-face interaction difficult or impossible. As such, it highlights dynamics that may occur in communities and large organizations or gatherings, where personal interactions are limited.

Emerging Possibilities Event

In this event, participants form their own groups. The groups are asked to interact with other groups including the staff group. Participants and staff examine the system of this event as it evolves and unfolds, including its relatedness to the larger conference system. Staff provides consultation to the groups upon request.


Social Sensing Matrix

The social sensing matrix provides a space for all participants and staff to share dreams, thoughts, connections, and associations that arise in the moment. This is based on the assumption that the group unconscious can manifest in the dreams and associations of individuals and that exploring them together can help to better understand the group-as-a-whole.  


Review Groups

Participants are assigned to a group of 5-6 people and a consultant. The Review Group provides members with the opportunity to review their experiences in the conference to that point and consider what and how they are learning. Participants will have an opportunity to explore connections between their experiences in the conference and their experiences in communities, organizations and groups in the outside world.


Conference Discussion

In this event, participants and staff have an opportunity to collaborate in reviewing and analyzing their experiences in the conference as a whole. Throughout the conference, participants and staff may have taken up several roles and experienced many kinds of relationships with each other.  The Conference Discussion is an opportunity to recognize and discuss feelings, attitudes, and behaviors, and to perhaps discover patterns of action or deeper levels of significance with implications and applications to our outside communities and organizations.

to Staff


Staff manage the conference as a whole and take up consulting roles during its various parts. As managers, staff manage the conditions of the conference, particularly in relation to time, task, and territory. As consultants, staff offer working hypotheses and reflections that explore the conscious and unconscious aspects of organizational and system behavior as it emerges, focusing on group level dynamics rather than on the individual.


Staff do not manage the participants or their behavior. Instead, participants are free to engage in the primary task and purpose as they choose and as they authorize themselves and each other to do.


The staff for the conference is listed below but may include others not listed here. A final list of staff will be provided prior to the start of the conference.



Conference Director
Davíd Luna (mak wemuk), JD (he, him) is indigenous (of the Coahuiltecan peoples) and Latinx (Chicanx). He is a consultant specializing in issues of racial equity and social justice (Luna Consulting & Coaching). He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Washington-Baltimore Center for the Study of Group Relations, a Co-Creator of Group Relations International, an AKRI Certified Consultant, a Past-President of the National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives, and a member of the National Lawyers Guild. He is the father of four powerful young women and is based in the Chicago area.


Conference Associate Director
Kimberley A. Turner, PhD, MDiv (she, her), Member and Past President, Washington-Baltimore Center for the Study of Group Relations; Associate, AKRI; Mentor, Training and Certification Program, AKRI; OD Consultant, Executive Coach; Associate Minister, Metropolitan Baptist Church; Member, NAACP.


Director of Administration and Technology
Jack Lampl (he/him),
Organizational Consultant, Credentialed Mediator, AKRI Certified Consultant, Visual Artist, Past President and Fellow A K. Rice Institute, Board member San Diego Psychoanalytic Center, Past President Threshold Foundation, Founder of Subjective Technologies Inc. a too early stage virtual reality startup,  Grex member and former board member.

Consulting Staff


Janice G. Brewington, PhD, RN, FAAN, Dr. Janice Brewington is chief program officer and director for the center for transformational leadership at the National League for Nursing, where she developed and implemented two yearlong leadership programs. She is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. Janice has provided organizational development consultation services to nonprofit businesses, city and county agencies, and universities in areas such as organization assessment, strategic planning, team building, effective management, conflict management, coaching, communication systems, leadership, consensus building, and program assessment and evaluation. Janice’s passion is leadership and making a difference in other people’s lives.


Diana Casteñeda, LCPC (she/her), Director of Youth and Crisis Services, Community Counseling Centers of Chicago; Member, Chicago Center for the Study of Groups and Organizations; Member, Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis


Nadia Greenspan (she, her, hers) is an improviser, an acting instructor and a psychological dramaturg.  As a psychotherapist in private practice, she specializes in working with people in creative and performing arts.  Born in the Soviet Union, she is a proud Ukrainian, a recovering Jew and a practicing witch. She is a member of AKRI and a Co-Creator of Group Relations International.


Betsy Hasegawa (she/her/hers) Ainu First People of Japan and Japanese heritages; Ed.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education, serves as Associate Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at South Seattle College. Betsy is still amazed that she was asked to build community, develop leadership, and promote healing as part of a large scale change process to co-create an intentionally anti-racist college. As part of this, Betsy gets to work with faculty and staff to promote more active, relational, and connected ways of teaching and engaging, with the hope that we can improve educational experiences and achievement for BIPOC students. Dr. Hasegawa also serves on the Lummi Nation Peacemaking Circle Leadership Team, is a Fellow of the AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems and is a Co-creator with Group Relations International.


Anita Prasad (she/her) is a grassroots community development and social justice leader. A first generation Indian immigrant to Canada, Anita’s work and life experiences on the front lines of anti-poverty, social and ecological justice work span India and Canada – working both in urban and rural spaces with communities deeply impacted and marginalized by colonial and capitalist forces. In Toronto she has been actively engaged on issues of mental health & addiction, homelessness, food insecurity and racism and currently is the Executive Director of Working for Change, a grassroots survivor-based organization working to build economic and social mobility in communities that live in poverty. A GR practitioner for 6 years now, Anita has a deep curiosity for how change actually happens in society – what are the group/organizational dynamics that both facilitate and impede real social transformation and liberation?


Michael Speer, PhD (he, his), Independent consultant and coach offering learning opportunities in leadership and group and organizational dynamics; member and past president, Washington-Baltimore Center for the Study of Group Relations; coach, Coaches4Causes; former board member, AKRI; former leadership professor, University of Maryland and Burns Academy of Leadership; co-creator, Group Relations International; Board Member, Dupont Circle Village; yogi, memoirist, meditator. Michael lives in Washington, DC, with his partner and husband of 37 years. 


Minnie Tao,  MA, LCPC (she/her) works as a psychotherapist in a group private practice.  She is a co-creator of Group Relations International and a member of the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems.


Janice Wagner MSW, LICSW (she, her), is a Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist in Boston, MA. She worked in the Child Welfare and Criminal Justice systems, as well in a private multi-specialty medical practice before engaging in a full-time private psychotherapy practice. She is a member and Past-President of the Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems, a fellow of the A. K. Rice Institute and a Co-Creator of Group Relations International. She is a Vice-Chair of the AKRI Reparations Committee. She is a Generational African American with roots in Texas and the Carolinas, who grew up in the US Virgin Islands.

Leo Wilton photo.jpg

Leo Wilton, PhD, (he, him), Psychologist; Member and Past President, New York Center for the Study of Groups, Organizations, and Social Systems; Associate, AKRI; Lifetime Member, Association of Black Psychologists; Professor, Department of Human Development, State University of New York at Binghamton. He has lived in three African countries and traveled extensively in the African Diaspora. He teaches courses on Psychology of Racism, Black Child and Adolescent Development, Black Families, and research methods.


John Weng, MA, ICF ACC (he, him), is Asian American. He is a leadership coach and consultant committed to the holistic development of individuals and teams (John Weng Consulting). He also works with organizations such as ExecOnline and the Center for Creative Leadership to provide leadership coaching and facilitation services. He currently serves as the Assistant Director for Student Governments, Auxiliaries and Services at UC San Diego and is a lecturer and doctoral candidate in the Department of Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego. He is a Co-Creator of Group Relations International and an AKRI Consultant Candidate. He is based in the San Diego area.


Kat Zwick MA, LPCC, C-DBT (they/them, she/her) is a non-binary, queer, white survivor with Indigenous family heritage (Penobscot Nation). Kat is the incoming Associate Director of Clinical Services for Queer Asterisk, a non-profit mental health treatment center based out of Boulder, CO and the Executive Director of Ride The Wave Recovery, a training and direct services clinic that offers outpatient care to clients of all genders and sexualities recovering from eating disorders, addictions, codependency and ADHD, basd out of Santa Cruz, CA. Kat has been serving clients in recovery for 14 years and is particularly invested in empowering clients who are otherwise disenfranchised within mental healthcare systems. They are a member of AKRI, GRI and WBC.

Associate for Administration and Technology


Beatriz Curado, MA, (she/her) has been involved with the group relations community for over 5 years, participating in conferences, workshops and training in the US and Canada. With a diverse education, she holds a bachelor's in performance arts, a master’s in religious studies and is currently working towards her Project Management certification. She was an analysand for 10 years and is a currently in psychoanalytical psychotherapy. Born in Brazil, Beatriz calls Toronto, Canada, home since 2011.

Special Notes

Who’s the event for? 

Anyone wanting an opportunity to learn through immediate and direct experience about group dynamics and influence and about overt and covert actions involved in the exercise of power, leadership, followership and authority, particularly as these connect to race. No particular background or experience is necessary to participate. People from a wide variety of fields, organizations and industries have participated in Group Relations conferences.

Attendance Policy

Participants should plan to attend and participate in all components of the conference, as it is designed to be an integrated experience, with each component building on the previous.

Withdrawal Policy 

Fees can only be refunded (less $50 administration charge) if a written notice of cancellation (via email) is received by 6 PM Eastern on May 4th, 2022.


Staff will not report the behavior of any individual member to anyone outside the conference.


The conference is an educational endeavor and does not provide psychotherapy or counseling. Although the experiential learning available can be stimulating and enriching, it can also be emotionally stressful. Thus, applicants who are ill or experiencing significant personal difficulties should forgo participating at this time.


*Group rates are for 3 or more participants coming from the same organization. Each participant from a group should submit their own application and include one another's names in “close associates” question on the application.


We will make every effort to make the conference accessible to all who are interested  regardless of finances. For those experiencing financial difficulty, reduced fees will be considered on a case by case basis. Those interested in this option should contact the Administration Team using the conference email:



to Fees


Below are two articles that will help orient you to Group Relations concepts and methods. We will send you additional pre-readings in advance of the conference.


Recommended readings for all participants:


to Readings

Sponsored by:

Endorsed by:

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