IMAGINE, 1,000 community members from across Ithaca and Tompkins County coming together at the State Theatre to watch, listen, learn, and understand together. Join friends, neighbors and co-workers for this powerful film series that could forever change our community!


It is not easy to talk about or make sense of race. Ask 10 people to define it and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. On few topics have there been so many assumptions, myths and misperceptions. And yet the ramifications of race- the meaning that we place on the color of one’s skin- continues to be real, and still has very real consequences for our country and our community.

On April 8th, 15th and 22nd, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, hundreds of friends, neighbors and coworkers across Ithaca and Tompkins County will come together at the historic State Theatre of Ithaca, to view the eye-opening and powerful three-part series (one hour episodes, one episode each night) PBS documentary, Race: The Power of An Illusion. Each episode will be introduced by a pair of community leaders including, Cornell University President David Skorton with Marcia Fort, Dr.Sean Eversley Bradwell with Jean McPheeters, and Svante Myrick with Don Barber. Episodes will be followed by a small panel and facilitated conversation about the film and its relevance today.

Race: The Power of An Illusion! examines the biological myth of race, and its social and political construction.  Until we understand the myths of race and see its lasting impact on society, and in our community today, we cannot have the important conversations to move forward. First we must understand, then we can overcome.

For more information about the Understand to Overcome (U2O) initiative, visit, or contact Schelley Michell-Nunn at, or Brigid Hubberman at or 607.227.3360.


Across Ithaca and Tompkins County, community members have been gathering in their places of work, neighborhoods, civic groups, and organizations they belong to, to watch and have conversations about Race: The Power of An Illusion.

Copies of the film are still in circulation at public libraries throughout Tompkins County. The film will also be shown on television, on the public access, Channel 13. Businesses and organizations interested in offering screenings of the film are invited to pick up a DVD and information on hosting a viewing at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, 615 Willow Avenue, Ithaca, and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, 904 E. Shore Dr., Ithaca.


Race: The Power of An Illusion is a Three Part Series

Episode One: The Difference Between Us examines the contemporary science that challenges our common sense assumptions that human beings can be bundled into three or four fundamentally different groups according to their physical traits.

Episode Two: The Story We Tell uncovers the roots of the race concept in North America, the 19th century science that legitimated it, and how it came to be held so fiercely in the western imagination. The episode is an eye-opening tale of how race served to rationalize, even justify, American social inequalities as “natural.”

Episode Three: The House We Live In asks: If race is not biology, what is it? This episode uncovers how race resides not in nature but in politics, economics and culture. It reveals how our social institutions “make” race by disproportionately channeling resources, power, status and wealth to some.


Inspired by participating in the Multicultural Resource Center’s Talking Circles on Race and Racism, the Social Justice Committee of the Ithaca Friends (Quakers) Meeting hosted a public viewing of the three-part PBS Series, Race: The Power of An Illusionin Spring 2012. Inspired by the powerful and personal impact of the film series, a few viewers spoke afterwards about how more of the community could have the same experience.  When Schelley Michell-Nunn shared her vision for everyone in the community seeing the film at the same time, they committed to join together to make that vision a reality. Understand to Overcome was selected as the title for the initiative, recognizing that before we can come together to take action to overcome the challenges our community faces, we must all first understand why our present state exists.


Schelley E. Michell-Nunn, City of Ithaca,
Audrey J. Cooper, Multicultural Resources Center (MRC)
Karen Friedeborn, Ithaca Youth Bureau
Jeri Gallucci, MRC Talking Circles White Allies
Diane Hamilton, Greenstar Cooperative Market
Brigid Hubberman, Family Reading Partnership
Paula E. F. Younger, Tompkins County Government