Organizing and Facilitating Critical Conversations around Systemic Racism: Opportunities and Challenges


  • Melissa Hackman Emory Libraries
  • Paige Crowl
  • Erica Bruchko
  • Jina DuVernay
  • Saira Raza



DEI, community-building, anti-racism, professional development, social justice


The Coffee and Critical Conversations Series was organized by Emory Libraries Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) subcommittee on Professional Development for library employees to engage in dialogue and build community around DEI topics. The subcommittee sought to foster understanding and inspire fruitful discussion on institutional racism in libraries, allyship, and the legacy of racialized trauma pervading African American life.

The conversation series began virtually in summer of 2020. Each session was based on a curated collection of shared media (film clips, news articles, TED talks) and was facilitated by volunteers via Zoom. Attendees were given reflection questions to help guide conversation in small breakout groups. As the sessions wrapped up, the facilitators provided further resources for participants to continue their exploration of the topics. We assessed participant responses with an open-ended survey and solicited feedback from participants to inform future sessions.

Like many of our peers, not everyone in our organization has felt informed enough to engage with social justice movements in the library. Our goal was to transform the organizational culture and relieve anxiety around discussing racism and oppression both in our institution and beyond. Coffee and Critical Conversations offers a space for folks to demystify their emotions, find language to express their feelings about current events, and foster authentic connections on our path to creating a more equitable institution.