Conversation in the Central District often revolves around race, but it’s clear that not everyone is on the same page about what role race plays in issues facing the neighborhood today. The Seattle Race Initiative is an attempt to give people a comfortable space to talk about race and listen to others.
The discussions are Friday, December 9 from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. You do not need to attend both (though you can). The discussions are free and funded by a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant.
From the Seattle Race Initiative:
The Seattle Race Initiative will be held at Mount Zion Baptist Church on Friday, December 9, 2011 (6-9 pm) and Saturday, December 10, 2011 (8:30 am – 4pm). The Initiative is designed to help participants have everyday and nonthreatening discussions about race. To assist in this process, the meeting will be led by Master Facilitator, Dr. David Campt, known as the Race Doctor (www.davidcampt.com).
Friday evening will look at race through the lens of the arts, addressing the ways that artists explore race through literature, dance, music, the spoken word and the visual arts. There will be a discussion about how participants perceived the art and the artists facilitated by the use of audience response technology; this will be followed by a Q and A with the artists. Saturday places participants in groups based on work and/or interest identities. This is believed to be a way to help groups start talking with something important in common, as they will have members of different ages, life stages, races and ethnicities, neighborhoods and experiences with race and racism. Because race is a taboo topic in America, this meeting is designed to make the topic interesting, intriguing, comfortable and fun.
While one weekend cannot change how Seattleites speak to each other, taking conversations about race out of the realm of blame is a great start.
Jerry Large at The Seattle Times spoke to organizer Lora-Ellen McKinney about what she hopes the conversation will accomplish:
“One of the things I know about Seattle is that Seattle is committed to compassion,” she said, “but we know compassion can be hard to learn.”
She wanted to do something that didn’t generate argument, that wasn’t a lecture, something that gave people a safe way to talk.
McKinney said most people think about race through their own experiences, so she wanted to allow people to talk about their different experiences.
“When I think about this a little bit, I think of the trite metaphor, that we are all on racial journeys and we have suitcases packed with baggage. … I’m trying to make it a 21st-century suitcase,” with lighter contents, she said.