Facing Race: A National Conference in St. Louis, MO — November 20-22, 2024

Rinku Sen

Senior Strategist | Race Forward
Rinku is a writer and social justice strategist. She is formerly the Executive Director of Race Forward and was Publisher of their award-winning news site Colorlines. Under Sen’s leadership, Race Forward generated some of the most impactful racial justice successes of recent years, including Drop the I-Word, a campaign for media outlets to stop referring to immigrants as “illegal,” resulting in the Associated Press, USA Today, LA Times, and many more outlets changing their practice. She was also the architect of the Shattered Families report, which identified the number of kids in foster care whose parents had been deported.Her books Stir it Up and The Accidental American theorize a model of community organizing that integrates a political analysis of race, gender, class, poverty, sexuality, and other systems. As a consultant, Rinku has worked on narrative and political strategy with numerous organizations and foundations, including PolicyLink, the ACLU and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She serves on numerous boards, including the Women’s March, where she is Co-President and the Foundation for National Progress, publisher of Mother Jones magazine.

Presentations from Facing Race 2022

We Build Narrative Power through Narrative Organizing

What would holding the power of your own narrative feel like in your body? How do we get from the present narrative crisis to the deep narratives we dream are possible? The definition of narrative organizing is the act of building, creating, and using narrative to build power towards a more just and equitable future. Narrative without organizing leaves narrative power to others. When we bring alignment, polyvocality, and community leadership to narrative work we are organizing people to hold and exert narrative power.

We will talk about what deep narrative power is, and how narrative organizing is a way to get there. Narrative Initiative will share nourishing lessons learned from our narrative organizing work in snack-sized portions: the power of narrative authorship, quick narrative capacity checks, balancing short term/long term, and ways to bond together for change.

In sprints, we will surface helpful narratives that ease our work, and harmful ones that impede it. Participants will create and share quick narrative maps of their own ongoing work, and will leave with a plan to further their own narrative organizing work, basic tools of narrative organizing that you can tap into, plus ways to connect with other narrative organizing practitioners.

Speakers: Emi Kane, Rinku Sen

Racing the Election: Reflections on the Midterms and the Direction Forward

The midterm election will be in our rearview mirror at Facing Race. There will be little time to be depressed or jubilant in the wake of the recent election. Join our esteemed panel of organizers, strategists, and movement thinkers to analyze the midterm elections. From Arizona to Appalachia, what was the impact of grassroots organizing and political power in communities of color? What are the good, the bad, and the ugly realities of the election results? How did racism and racial justice impact the outcome? and how do we plot a course for the post-election period given the challenging course ahead?


Moderator(s): Libero Della Piana Speakers: Rinku Sen, Judith Le Blanc, Alex Gomez, LeeAnn Hall

Presentations from Facing Race 2020

Strategic campaigns — advancing racial Justice

Racial justice strives for full liberation. How to get there from here is the question. This workshop will begin with a framework for evaluating and creating policy demands that advance racial justice. Participants will work together to assess how to build short-term
goals that build leadership and impact the lives of our members while marching down the path toward liberation.

Speakers: Libero Della Piana, LeeAnn Hall, Judith Le Blanc, Rinku Sen, Francis Calpotura

Presentations from Facing Race 2018

Being You and Doing Good: a conversation between Dawn-Lyen Gardner and Rinku Sen


All of us strive to align our personal practice in social change with our values. Actor and teaching artist Dawn-Lyen Gardner and activist/writer Rinku Sen make change while obsessing about the big questions: Where are we on the spectrum of despair to optimism? How do we cultivate courage, vulnerability and creativity? Is a racial identity fixed or fluid? Can pop culture really drive systemic change? How do we hold on to our ethics when the cost of doing so is high? Join these two racial justice leaders in a wide-ranging yet intimate conversation about leadership, morality, identity, art, and much more.

Speakers: Rinku Sen, Dawn-Lyen Gardner

Meet Author: Jeff Chang and Rinku Sen

Jeff Chang: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Who We Be

Rinku Sen: Stir It Up, The Accidental American

Speakers: Jeff Chang, Rinku Sen

Presentations from Facing Race 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

We are gathering just two days after the most contentious election season in decades. Both major parties showed their deep splinters, Trumpism became the new normal and all the politicians were forced to deal with issues that communities of color raised to national prominence. In this closing plenary, leaders will speak to the challenges of governance before us, and how the racial justice movement can position ourselves to make the most of the next four years.

Will be livestreamed.

Speakers: Marisa Franco, Glenn Harris, Pramila Jayapal, Van Jones, Rinku Sen, Kara Denise Brewer Boyd, Linda Sarsour

Changing the Big Story on Race

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to shift the way we understand the world around us, to create empathy, and effect change. Narrative change projects aim primarily to shift the way that a particular community or issue is characterized in the press or popular culture. There might be an immediate policy goal, or it could be part of a broader strategy. It usually involves significant media and communications work, including distribution planning for research reports, and creation of visual storytelling products like short videos. How do you know when a narrative change project is needed as part of your campaign? In this session expert panelists Malkia Cyril, Deeepa Iyer, and Tracy Van Slyke share examples of successful campaigns they have run, and offer insights as to what makes a narrative change project effective, and how to measure impact.

Speakers: Rinku Sen, Malkia Cyril, Deepa Iyer

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony

Rinku Sen
Joan Garner
Mary Hooks


We The People: Atlanta Remembered, Reimagined & rEvolutionized

Creative Director: Monica Raye Simpson
DJ: masud "mikeflo" asante
Band: Musiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective
Drumming Group: Jayusori: Freedom Sound
Vocalists: Che Rene, madam cj, Love Shanti Om
Dance Company: Black Rosez
African Dance and Drumming Company: Djole Kele
Emcee: camil williams
Poet: Qiana Cutts
Musician: Ken J
Voguer: Mickyel Bradford

Doors open at 6:30.

Speakers: Rinku Sen, Joan Garner, Mary Hooks

Presentations from Facing Race 2014

The Next Fifty

This year and next we will celebrate the anniversaries of major racial justice victories like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. In this plenary, big thinkers will reflect on trends and strategies for the next half century. Get your long term on with Ian Haney Lopez, Van Jones, and Rinku Sen. 

Speakers: Ian Haney Lopez, Van Jones, Rinku Sen

Multiply and Mobilize: Resisting Divide and Conquer Tactics in Multiracial Work

The act of dividing potential allies and communities who could come together to rise up is one of the oldest and most infuriatingly effective tricks in the book. In this workshop, movement activists and elders will join us to tell the stories of historic (and current) moments of successful resistance to efforts to divide our movements for social justice. Together we will examine these moments to lift up lessons, tools, and strategies we can use as organizers and community members to build resilience against these efforts and to increase our capacity to grow and maintain strong and unified multiracial movements.

Speakers: Kiran Nigam, Jenna Peters-Golden, Rinku Sen, Manuel Pastor, Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele, Linda Sarsour

Moving the Race Conversation Forward

From Ferguson to Paula Deen, this session will identify and describe some of the key ways media-driven conversations in the United States unproductively approach issues of race and racism. Panelists will present research and analysis of recent media coverage, describe some of the major impediments to productive racial discourse, and provide recommendations on how to reframe the public conversation on race using lessons from several recent interventions and initiatives that are breaking down significant barriers toward racial justice.

Speakers: Rinku Sen, Jay Smooth, Sally Kohn, Alexis McGill-Johnson

Presentations from Facing Race 2012

Culture Trumps Politics: Or Does It?

When political times get hard, creative people turn to influencing the way race is lived instead of the way it is legislated. This session will focus on the relationship between cultural and political change, from the perspective of the nation's leading artists.

Speakers: Jeff Chang, Lolis Eric Elie, Negin Farsad, Rinku Sen, Jose Antonio Vargas

Storytelling for Racial Justice

To advance our racial justice efforts, we need to connect our audience to the issues in a meaningful way that helps them to see things from another perspective. An essential tool in reframing the conversation on race is story-telling that pulls at the heart-strings, appeals to deeply held values, and leads audiences through a day in someone else's shoes. In this workshop participants will develop vivid, compelling stories that include the key elements of narrative, and how to use stories to effect change

Speakers: Rinku Sen, john powell

Keynote Event: Junot Diaz

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER: Race Talk, Sexuality & Teachable Moments for the Masses

Speakers: Junot Díaz, Rinku Sen

Changing the Conversation on Race

Racial justice groups have to fight the dominant narratives about race that currently exist in society and the media. Most stories have a narrative arc that focuses on individual racism and intention, resulting in a debate that puts too much emphasis on the individual and continues to hide structural racism. To make an impact, we have to grapple with and shift those narratives. This workshop will help people understand what a frame is, how it relates to the message, why stories are important to framing, and will expose participants to some framing approaches.

Speakers: Rinku Sen, Maya Wiley, Tim Wise, Milly Hawk Daniel