• LB Strong

Snodgrass Takes BLM Conversation to the Next Step

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

By Joey Goodsir

Despite feeling nervous about speaking very publicly for the first time on an emotional subject, Kimberly Snodgrass received immediate praise during Lake Forest’s Black Lives Matter Protest in June -- more immediate than some may think.

“So many people approached me, literally during my speech,” Snodgrass said. “I was getting non-stop texts of support from people while I was speaking, and I was having to frantically swipe them away while reading the speech off of my phone.”

Snodgrass’s speech brought new insight into the experiences of a person of color in the LF/LB community, and compassion from the crowd was obvious after she finished her speech.

Snodgrass, however, saw that her work on Black Lives Matter needed to extend beyond the protest itself.

“People were coming forward to me and sharing how they were moved, their thoughts, and their own experiences. I had this deep sense that people were communicating through their actions that they just wanted to speak to someone where they felt safe talking,” she said. “A lot of people gravitated toward me and to say ‘I’m listening, I’m here, I want to learn more, let’s talk.’”

By the next day, Snodgrass founded “The Conversation” on Instagram (#TheConversationSessions) out of that need for communication. It is a platform to publicize insightful, constructive, and sometimes difficult conversations about racial issues over Instagram, with a focus on allowing many unique voices.

“My plan is to have a balance of ethnicities, genders, and ages in our guests because we all have stories to learn from and work to do,” said Snodgrass. “It’s definitely for anyone and everyone.”

The diversity of the project doesn’t only come through the guests, but the vast range of interview topics that reveal the scope, depth, and nuance of race’s role in our society.

The main subject of #TheConversationSessions is racism and its many offsprings, including micro-aggression, implicit bias, stereotypes and systemic issues.

“I also want to talk about topics and get away from the interview style occasionally. Between understanding Defund the Police, #YogaSoWhite, and even the culture behind black women’s hair, these are just some examples of sensitive topics that we approach with a focus of education and understanding,” Snodgrass said. “I’m finding that at the end of 60 minutes, we’re just getting into it.”

Even in the discomfort of discussing these complex issues, Snodgrass made the decision to leave partisan politics at the door.

“I’m passionate about not politicizing this – it’s one of our rules: Talk about a topic, but don’t infuse politics into it, because that is when things get tainted and the truth gets twisted,” she said.

While there are many new platforms with similar missions in response to these times, Snodgrass has found a niche with #TheConversationSessions to sustain the momentum for local consciousness and change.

“My concern is that this all turns into Black spirit week and it dies down; that people will get really fired up, but it will remain merely a news cycle,” she said. “During the protests, COVID-19 went away for a week. I don’t want the same thing to happen to the issue of racism. This has been going on forever, but now it is getting filmed – so there is a sense of urgency now.”

Snodgrass also worries the issues could worsen if they are not openly discussed.

“I always reference a children’s book called There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon. It’s a great children’s book, but it has an overall theme that if you ignore something, it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. By ignoring it, it doesn’t go away,” Snodgrass said. “This has been the case with race. We don’t openly talk about it under normal circumstances, and especially not about the difficult things – nor does our bubble give us many opportunities. There is an opportunity now for this to change.”

The self-examination occurring today gives Snodgrass hope.

“It has been an amazing opportunity and moment to re-examine the place racism has in our lives,” she said. “It has made people hyper-aware of their own individual contributions or lack thereof.”

Snodgrass hopes to inspire substantive action through #TheConversationSessions, and she believes maintaining a safe platform is the best way to promote that.

“We are showing up, and we are growing together. Show up as you are, but let’s also leave space for everyone to evolve. Let’s educate each other kindly,” she said. “If there are people who come on who are intolerant and have hate in their heart, they’re gone. There’s no back and forth, because there is no point if they aren’t open to change. This program is for constructive conversation. I am not an intimidating person, I am a curious person, and I believe that most people are really good. The people who aren’t good tend to be pretty loud, but most people can be there to grow and learn. Part of the problem with all of us is that we’re not willing to ‘go there’ sometimes because it is not comfortable. This platform is made to be a safe place to do that.”

And through her safe platform, she believes that a more realistic form of education on these issues can take place.

“Black history is taught in a very sugarcoated way. When that happens, it’s easier to digest and move on. When you see more, you realize it shouldn’t be easy to digest, and it needs all of our attention,” Snodgrass said. “It’s so complicated and there are so many different angles to it. Part of it is learning things myself. I don’t have all the answers just because I am a black woman, I don’t know everything – I only know my experiences and how they make me feel."

Kimberly Snodgrass of Lake Bluff

With platforms like #TheConversationSessions bringing personal moments of education forward, Snodgrass believes the change she hopes for can happen.

“Ultimately, I want the comfort level to be elevated in regard to talking about race. I want people to confront racism by way of communication and conversation, and feeling more comfortable talking with other people, coming to the table disagreeing and talking it out – without politics and aggressive behavior. The more you talk about it with other people, the more educated you will be and the more you can grow. It is so big and we can’t allow the way things are now to continue. We can get caught up in the day-to-day – myself included – but I’ve started this for us. I have a lot to give, but I am in this too and have a lot to learn.”

A screenshot of @TheConversationSessions on Instagram