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At DreamWeek’s kickoff breakfast Friday morning, two former mayors and the current mayor of San Antonio shared why they appreciate the ideas summit and what they hope it will accomplish.
Ivy Taylor, who served as San Antonio’s mayor from 2014 to 2017, said she arrived at three main concepts after considering this year’s DreamWeek theme, “What Makes Us Human?”: spiritual beliefs, creative expression, and culture. She cited conversations she has had at social outings with “educated and wealthy” people who asked her why ethnicity, cultural labels, and slavery remain hot-button topics.
“Those events, that perspective, that ethnic label, that is all part of what makes me human,” Taylor said. “If we are to see the humanity in others, it does not mean simply seeing what we have in common, but also respecting what’s different about us.”
DreamWeek helps facilitate these conversations by bringing people together and helping them find common ground, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.
“[Martin Luther King Jr.] dreamed of a society where people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he said. “We only have to read the headlines to know that King’s dream is far from being achieved.”
DreamWeek has grown in reach and scope in the past seven years, founder Shokare Nakpodia said. This year, the 16-day ideas summit is presenting more than 170 events with 165 partners. Nakpodia said he dreams of a day where people come to San Antonio specifically to attend DreamWeek in search of conflict resolution.
“Ultimately, we believe the truest voice is going to triumph,” he said. “Why not grant everyone a voice, and allow people who are brave enough to articulate a loving vision for this world speak?”
Nakpodia highlighted some of DreamWeek’s standout events, including a keynote speech from Crystal Miller, who survived the 1999 Columbine High School shooting; the mayor’s ball; and the screening of The Rachel Divide, which made headlines and resulted in the removal of the documentary’s subject from the event.
Rachel Dolezal, who claims to be black and describes herself as “transracial,” made headlines in 2015 when her parents confirmed she is white. Around 1,200 people signed a petition in protest of Dolezal’s invitation to DreamWeek, arguing her presence would give her an “opportunity to further monetize her exploitation of Black women and the community at large.”
Julián Castro, who served as San Antonio’s mayor from 2009 to 2014 before being appointed secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Barack Obama, seized Friday’s breakfast as an opportunity to tease his expected presidential campaign announcement. He said “What Makes Us Human” is the capacity to love, foster compassion, and strive to understand one another.
“But there’s also a capacity to hate, to fear, to blame,” Castro said. “We have a decision to make in this country as to which one of those we’re going to listen to, gravitate to.
“Today, it feels like in so many ways we’re going backward into an era of scapegoating, blaming, dividing, trying to see to it that we don’t move together as a country, but that we fall apart. This community of San Antonio, and especially expressed in this series of events, is all about trying to make sure people know each other,” he said.
“Well, that was presidential,” Nakpodia deadpanned to an amused audience following Castro’s speech.
DreamWeek runs from Friday Jan. 11 to Saturday, Jan. 26. A full schedule of events can be found here.