With Chauvin’s trial set to begin, Urban Triage asks Madison’s white community, ‘What have you done lately?’

The non-profit is launching its 'Co-Conspirator Workgroup' this month

MADISON, Wis. — It’s not often we begin news articles with dictionary definitions, but this one is important to understand before reading any further: Merriam Webster defines ‘conspire’ (v) as “to act in harmony towards a common end.”

That’s what thousands of white, peaceful protesters did alongside members of Madison’s Black community following the death of George Floyd last May, and it’s the crux behind Urban Triage’s new ‘Co-Conspirator Workgroup.’

The group is designed to bring about “positive, permanent shifts in how we define and understand the depth and breadth of white supremacist patriarchal capitalism,” according to Urban Triage’s site.

Point blank: What have you conspired to do lately?

“Everybody’s like, ‘Give me a list of books to read or movies to watch,'” said Alex Booker, communication specialist for Urban Triage. “But did they really read the books? Did they watch the movies?”

RELATED: The Madison Reading Project’s best children’s books about racism for every age

Booker said he was happy white people joined the Black community in protests last year. But now, nine months later, “people aren’t really protesting like that,” Booker explained. “It’s cold out.”

He said the cold and the snow doesn’t mean the work stops. Although there are fewer hashtags and Black History Month has come and gone, Urban Triage is purposely launching its Co-Conspirator Workgroup this month as a reminder the fight for racial equity needs to continue year-round.

The workgroup will provide an opportunity for white people to learn about what it’s really like to live as a black person in Madison, from people who are.

Workshop participants will meet people like Booker, who grew up on Madison’s east side, and learn about the stereotypes he immediately faced.

“They think you’re lazy, that you’re not working,” he said, of growing up in the “bad part of town.”

“They think you’re in poverty because of your own circumstances.”

Women like Aja Schumate, raised on the other side of Madison, will also share their stories.

“I went to Middleton High school,” Schumate explained, of her upbringing. “Not a lot of diversity there.”

RELATED: How to talk to your kids about race

During the 90-day class, Booker, Schumate, and their peers will put participants in uncomfortable situations where they’re they minority of the group. They’ll also tackle a range of topics, from income inequality to system racism.

“How do you pull yourself out of debt if your bills rise every time you get a raise?” Booker asked. “That’s not something a lot of white people have had to think about.”

“That’s something I struggled with a lot growing up in Middleton,” said Schumate. “I’d see all my white peers doing these amazing things and I’d get down on myself and think I wasn’t good enough to do that just because of the color of my skin.”

The Co-Conspirator Workgroup comes with a hefty pricetag, $1,450 for three months. Booker said that is part of the point: members of Urban Triage are tired of being used as a resource to answer white people’s questions without compensation.

Participants have until Friday, March 12 to join the group. Click here to apply.

Urban Triage is also encouraging all Wisconsinites to shop at local, Black, female-owned businesses during March, which is Women’s History Month.