The Lost Summer : Code Switch Twenty years ago, during the dog days of summer , a fledgling journalist named Shereen Marisol Meraji — maybe you've heard of her? — headed to Durban, South Africa. Her mission: to report on a meeting of thousands of organizers and ambassadors gathered at a global conference on racism. The conference filled Shereen with hope and optimism — all of which would soon be wiped away.

The Lost Summer

The Lost Summer

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Photo illustration by LA Johnson/NPR
Shereen photo illustration
Photo illustration by LA Johnson/NPR

Twenty years ago, during the dog days of summer, a fledgling journalist named Shereen Marisol Meraji — maybe you've heard of her? — headed to Durban, South Africa. Her mission: to report on the meeting of thousands of organizers and ambassadors at the United Nations Conference Against Racism.

The conference, Shereen says, helped her develop a global sensibility, learn about the interconnected struggles of people of color around the world, and foster a sense of optimism about what the future held when it came to dismantling racism.

Then, days after the conference ended, that sense of optimism was abruptly wiped away.

On this special episode — the last that will be co-hosted by Shereen — we're taking a look back at that conference, the issues that racial justice advocates were fighting for, and the day the world changed.