As DreamWeek organizers ready themselves for its seventh year, panelists and participants prepare to talk about the ideas summit’s theme: “What Makes Us Human?”

Crystal Miller, who survived the Columbine High School shooting, will share her story as part of this year’s theme. Her account of the 1999 shooting remains relevant today as 2018 ended with the most school shootings since 1970, according to the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Those numbers include the May 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting that left 10 dead.

But Miller doesn’t focus so much on policymaking as she does surviving, program coordinator Deborah Omowale said.

“She doesn’t talk about gun control; a lot of people think that’s where it’s going,” Omowale said. “She doesn’t even talk about safety in schools. She talks about [how] life is going to happen to you and there are some things you won’t have control over. So how do you turn that tragedy into hope? How do you overcome it? As humans, that’s what we want to do: we want to live our life as free as we can in the midst of tragedy and struggle.”

The 16-day ideas summit, which runs Jan. 11-26, starts with a breakfast featuring former Mayors Ivy Taylor and Julián Castro as well as current Mayor Ron Nirenberg and DreamWeek founder Shokare Nakpodia.

DreamWeek attendees can look through more than 170 events all guided by the central theme, “What Makes Us Human?” This year, participants can learn about gender identity, race, and immigration and the border crisis. A full schedule of events can be found here.

In past years, DreamWeek has hosted discussions on housing and desegregation, equality and tolerance, and race and voting rights. The ideas summit spans equally broad conversations with its schedule this year.

Saturday, Jan. 12, provides a snapshot of the summit’s events. In the morning, state Sen. José Menéndez will guide people through the state legislative process at the University of Incarnate Word’s Mabee Library Auditorium, to help activists understand how to be most effective when talking to their representatives. Students and student leaders from the Anne Frank Inspire Academy will talk about social issues at the academy’s campus that morning. And in the afternoon, community activists and organizers will discuss how education affects youth in finding their role in the world.

Many partners and events are coming back to DreamWeek from previous years. The Òlájú African Market Creative Arts Festival returns on Jan. 12 to showcase contemporary African-inspired food, art, music, and fashion. SA2020 again uses DreamWeek as an opportunity to hold its annual impact luncheon on Saturday, Jan. 22. GoodPeopleSA brings its mixer back on Jan. 24. And the DreamVoice Mayor’s Ball is celebrating its second year on Jan. 26.

New this year is the speaker series, featuring more than 20 San Antonians who will share the experiences that make up their being. Architect and transgender activist Ashley Smith talks about gender identity. Jennifer Shell tells her story as a hearing-impaired individual. And former Bexar County Court Judge Genie Wright shares how her experience in the courts shaped her vision of humanity.

“We were thinking … why not have voices speak on what makes us human from their standpoint? We have a first responder, an ex-judge who presided over family court, a myriad of people that have had experiences and how that’s affected their humanity,” Omowale said. “Because everyone has a story.”

This is the first year DreamWeek will not hold a naturalization ceremony for children, due to the federal government shutdown, Omowale said.

As always, DreamWeek coincides with San Antonio’s annual commemorative MLK Jr. march. This year’s march takes place on Monday, Jan. 21, at 10 a.m. The 2.75-mile route starts at the Martin Luther King Jr. Academy and ends at Pittman Sullivan Park.

Avatar photo

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.