Director's Letter

Haas Institute Director, john a. powell


The culmination of different voices coming together is the precursor to belonging. The resonance of shared experiences and emotions into one unified song is the very essence of belonging.

Whether you come from a school, a courthouse, a house of worship, or the streets,  your experience adds to the harmony of a more fair and inclusive society, a society which holds a place for everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, gender preference, sexual orientation, dis(ability) status, or class. It is the place where othering does not exist, only belonging.

When the Haas Institute set out to collaborate on this Othering & Belonging Conference, it was with conviction to make sure that content was reflective of a variety of perspectives and experiences.

Each and every aspect of this conference was planned to give a purposeful program that centered around a multidisciplinary exploration of what we mean by Othering and Belonging.

The resulting conference was three days of hope, understanding, dialogue, joy, celebration, and diversity that was ultimately greater than the sum of its individual parts. This conference represented all of the work that is being done across disciplines that continues to expand the circle of human concern.

We are all interconnected. We are all part of a bigger picture, but if we look too closely, we miss the beautiful scene that we can create together.

Between April 24 and April 26, almost 700 people came together in Oakland to make a small part of that picture. Side by side we sang songs with Melanie DeMore, explored identity and family with Andrew Solomon, had a conversation about race with Charles Blow, danced with the youth of the Destiny Junior Company and AXIS Dance Company, redefined the definition of art with Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and contemplated the future of the planet with Naomi Klein. We talked about the deep power of love with bell hooks and Joanna Macy, recognized and celebrated the role of marginalized communities with Ai-jen Poo, Manual Pastor, and Luis Garden Acosta, and reflected on our differences with Lynn Manning, Judith Smith, and Shakti Butler.

All of our invited guests and attendees gave us and each other their time and experiences so that we could begin and continue the work that constructing a society centered on belonging requires. But there is much more work to be done, as a tweak in our current behavior is not enough to bring about the changes that will promote equity and inclusion within our world.

We must use everything we've gained from this conference as a springboard to propel ourselves headfirst into situations that effect real change.

This is merely the beginning of the work that we must all do to change the outcomes of Othering and move toward a society of Belonging.

Thank you to all our supporters, attendees, speakers, and to all of you committed to our mutual vision of a more equitable and just society, 
john a. powell
Director, Haas Institute for Fair and Inclusive Society
Professor of Law, African American, and Ethnic Studies
University of California, Berkeley

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