This past October, over 60 people from the Interfaith Center and the broader community gathered to engage in an Uncomfortable Conversation, a conversation about race, guided by Robin Stephens from the Washtenaw County Democratic Party Black Caucus. This conversation inspired some significant awareness about the challenges and opportunities of this kind of conversation, especially considering the current atmosphere in our nation.
In order to continue these efforts, I gathered a team of racially diverse women passionate about the need for and potential impact of honest conversation among people of different races. Edie Lewis, a former Social Work professor at the University of Michigan, Maymette Dolberry, a Pastor at the Brown Church in Ypsilanti, and Patricia Fero, a Social Worker and therapist, joined me in creating the race dialogue event that was conducted in November of last year. This was a more intimate conversation with deep listening and intimate sharing, done in the style of a fish bowl. The group numbered just over 20 and included people who identify as white, black or African American, multiracial, and Asian.
Out of this event, we formed 3 small groups which have since met a number of times in one another’s homes. In an effort to reduce the impacts of segregation, we are meeting in each other’s living rooms and kitchens and patios, discussing issues of race with supportive ground rules and guiding questions. For many, these have proven to be powerful conversations that are also bringing clearer awareness to where we are stuck and where we have much to learn. Here are some reflections from participants, all kept anonymous for the sake of confidentiality.
“I was a little apprehensive and realized that I was going to disclose my most intimate feelings about racism to a group of ladies that I knew nothing about. To my surprise, I felt very safe and felt my comments were genuinely accepted.”
“I am grateful for this group and look forward to more meaningful conversations…I look forward to learning and being challenged to see more clearly the racial injustice in this country and how I have been a part of it. I want to do better.”
“The bottom line is I can do more. I have a responsibility to do more. I think if everyone sat down like we did, they would feel the same. How could they not?”
We are continuing the work of race dialogues through quarterly large group gatherings at ICSG that are open to the public. We will be forming additional small groups out of these events for those who are interested. Our next quarterly gathering is scheduled for Sunday, February 4th from 1-2:30 in the ICSG sanctuary. You do not need to be part of a small group or join one in order to participate in the quarterly events, though those in small groups will be in attendance. Feel free to bring anyone you think might be interested.
This is one small, but significant way we can begin to bridge divides and create understanding. One step at a time, one person at a time, we can work to create a different future. Looking forward to continuing to share this journey with you.