Randi Gray-Kristensen, scholar and activist, will give the first workshop this quarter in the MultiCultural Center-sponsored “Race Matters” series, tonight at 7:30 in the MCC lounge.

The MCC has featured speakers such as Elaine Brown – the only woman to lead the Black Panther Party – and Linnett Saunders-Peal, a black South American educator, since the series began Fall Quarter.

This evening’s workshop will draw on the maroon culture to explore race issues in the present day.

“The maroons were people of African descent who were brought to the Americans to be slaves and ran away from plantations,” Gray-Kristensen said. “They formed communities and bands of resistance and maintained distinct cultural identities.”

The maroons had to work together and also make multicultural negotiations with their neighbors, a concept generally thought of as a new idea, Gray-Kristensen said. Her talk will demonstrate lessons from the maroons still applied today.

“I’m hoping students will take away the sense that in historical situations, even when presented with no choices, people have stepped outside, used creativity and any other tools at their disposal to find another way of being,” Gray-Kristensen said.

The lecturers examine race from a historical viewpoint, look at present inequities related to race, discuss the concept of whiteness and talk about racism within color communities, MCC Director Zaveeni Khan-Marcus said.

“There are many angles you can look at race from,” said Khan-Marcus, creator of the series. “We’ve been carefully looking at the whole gambit of race and also race relations in the U.S. right now.”

The format of the workshops is a lecture with audience input. The MCC strives to educate people about racial identity and issues, and this is accomplished in various forms, Khan-Marcus said.

“People learn in different ways. Some learn by watching a movie, some appreciate a cultural group through music. The ‘Race Matters’ series is aimed at learning through dialogue – looking at issues,” Khan-Marcus said. “The purpose of the workshops is to create dialogue and a platform. That’s why we have it in the MCC lounge, in an atmosphere in which people can participate in the discussion or observe and learn.”