Last Thursday evening, more than 100 people gathered on the grounds of the County
Building, opening their ears and hearts to presentations that laid bare one of the deepest
challenges facing our country right now: the racial divide, both conscious and unconscious.
The gathering was peaceful and inspiring. Respectful. Discomforting. Deeply personal.
It was about commitment. It was about the role each of us has in creating a community
where all people are accepted as worthy human beings, regardless of skin color or background.
The gathering was about community. It was about commUNITY.
The many facets and manifestations of racism can generate a difficult conversation in any circle, but in a county that is predominantly white, like ours, it can be even more difficult, because the issues may not seem as obvious.
The evening opened with prayer and included an 8 minute and 46 second moment of
silence, marred only by bystanders on the periphery and across the street whose conversations continued openly. Each of the presenters shared a different portion of the evening’s story. Two black students who had graduated from Twin Lakes High School shared particularly poignant observations and experiences – shared not in resentment, pity, or hostility, but openly and honestly in the spirit of enlightenment. The evening closed with a truly powerful prayer for understanding, respect, personal commitment, and peace.
This conversation is taking place in communities around the country – in gatherings such as ours, in churches and book clubs, in social service agencies, and in community foundations. Where are we, both individually and corporately? How do we even open the conversation -- and are we willing to truly listen? (Hint: last week was a start.) Where do we go from here? There aren’t any perfect answers, but continuing reflection and conversation is critical if true commUNITY is to be achieved.
Last March, I was honored to accompany a group of Twin Lakes students to NASA
Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. At the end of a series of team-building exercises, they
were asked to give three words that led to successful results. Their answers:
It seems to me that those three words provide a good foundation for moving forward, in
White County and beyond. CommUNITY is possible – and important.