A MODEL FOR RACE AND JUSTICE EVENTS—It was a tremendous honor to stand alongside my friend and colleague Natasha Sistrunk Robinson last Thursday night at Church of the Apostles in Raleigh, NC. I trust that what we said in and of itself was helpful for the people in attendance, but what seemed even more significant to me was the form this event took. I loved the way Carrie Alspaugh and Amy Moreau organized the event to catalyze community involvement in issues related to race and justice.
If you want to see more people in your community engaged in this type of work, you might consider creating an evening like this one (with or without Natasha and me as speakers!).
The Model of Honest Conversation
First, this event was a collaborative effort between two churches. Second, they invited Natasha, a black Christian woman, and me, a white Christian woman, to stand side by side and share our stories.
After we each spoke, a white pastor and an African American church leader took questions from the audience (written on index cards, so they could curate whatever came up). The question and answer time was probably the best part of the night, both because they were great questions but also because it offered a chance for Natasha and me to model honest conversation about race without judgment or fear. (The audio from the evening, including the Q & A, is available here.)
One question was whether it’s a bad thing that our churches remain functionally segregated across the nation. Another was about whether Natasha has had “the talk” (if you don’t know what that means, she was gracious enough to explain that “the talk” is parents of black sons explaining how they must behave in public, and especially in front of the police, in order to never be perceived as a threat and to make it home alive). Another was about what practical steps people can take as they go into the next week.
But third, what I just LOVED about this time was that the event organizers invited four different local organizations to attend and share about ways people could get involved after the event was over. As it happens, these offerings align with the work I’ve been doing to encourage people to use head, heart, and hands to respond to injustice and social divisions in their local communities.
In this case, “use your head” aligned with the Racial Equity Institute, which offers opportunities to learn about the history of racial division in our nation. “Use your heart” aligned with The Encouraging Place, which organizes lunch and supper clubs for people who want to build relationships across racial divides. And “use your hands” aligned with an opportunity to become involved in a local women’s shelter.
A Model for Race and Justice Events
I dream of seeing this same model in cities and towns across the nation, and once again I’m grateful to Carrie Alspaugh and Amy Moreau for their work in bringing together so many people. I hope and pray that people left that event not only inspired by hearing Natasha and me speak, but empowered and equipped to participate with their whole selves—head, heart, and hands—in an ongoing work of healing and love within their city.