For the first time since 2006, Goshen College will be hosting the Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship conference, this year centered on the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship Conference of Mennonite and Affiliated Colleges, established in 1953, is hosted annually by one of six participating Anabaptist colleges. Students and faculty from GC’s PAX Club, Black Student Union and the peace, justice and conflict studies department have been working together the conference that will be held next weekend, March 18-20.

The conference theme is “Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement: Why and How?” Students and faculty will have the opportunity to be “empowered to combat racism individually and institutionally.” Joe Liechty, professor of peace, justice and conflict studies, said, “It’s a new, fresh opportunity to address long-standing issues of racism in our society, and we all need to learn what we can and reconsider our responsibilities and opportunities.”

The conference is organized under four main headings: “Why does it matter? What’s my part? What will we say? What sustains and inspires us?” The goal is for these themes to challenge participants individually and encourage conversations in each student’s school community.

Naomi Gross, a junior and PAX Club member, has been active in the planning process. “The goal of this event is to allow students to wrestle with their privilege and understand how they can act in solidarity with Black Lives Matter,” she said. “I think that it is often a misunderstood and misrepresented movement and the goal of this [conference] is to understand the movement better, and understand what part we play.”

Etienne Davis, a sophomore and Black Student Union leader, said, “For BSU, this event is a chance to educate others on what the Black Lives Matter movement really means and get some allies to our cause. The outcome we want for the listeners is to be able to support the movement from a point of knowing and not guessing. We need for people to understand the struggles that we face in order to aid us in independently overcoming those struggles.”

Participants will be able to form statements to take back to their campuses in order to address race-related issues in their communities. By the end of the weekend, participants will also have created a collaborative statement that represents the conference.

The weekend will include a combination of student participation and contributions from different leaders.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Karsonya Wise Whitehead, professor of communication and African & African American studies at Loyola University in Maryland and Black Lives organizer in Baltimore.

Her teaching and research focuses on the intersections of race, class and gender. Dr. Whitehead’s doctoral work focuses on black women’s history, historical sociolinguistics and women’s history, and her master’s degree work is on international peace studies with a concentration in race, class and gender issues.

In addition to her academic achievements, Dr. Whitehead has been chosen to be part of the White House’s Black History Month Panel for the past three years. The panel is co-sponsored by President Obama and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

During the 1960s GC had some involvement with the Civil Rights movement, but Liechty said, “We were slower and more limited than we should have been.” With the conference right around the corner, this is GC’s re-awakened opportunity to get involved with the fight against racism.

About thirty to forty students from Eastern Mennonite University, Bethel College, Hesston College, Conrad Grebel University College and Bluffton College are anticipated to attend and all students are welcome to register, although the event is not open to the general public.

There is still a need for students to host guests, and hosts will receive a $10 discount at registration. For more information about registration, visit