Responding to communities that express interest in the Dialogue on Race has become a growing undertaking for the Dialogue on Race. Steering members, Wornie Reed, Penny Franklin and Andy Morikawa, recently traveled to Abingdon at the invitation of Anthony Flaccavento and Buckie Boone. Penny and Wornie and Andy went to share their founding experience of the Dialogue on Race.
Meeting them were folk from several local active groups working to address issues of race, diversity and inclusion. They met together in the fellowship hall of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in downtown Abingdon.
It was a remarkable gathering. The sharing of experiences. The questions of and for each other made clear how engaged both TCG and the Abingdon folk were.
A twelfth member arrived near the end of the three-hour meeting. Even so late, she wanted to be there. It was a remarkable gathering. The sharing of experiences. The questions of and for each other made clear how engaged both TCG and the Abingdon folk were. The Abingdon and the Dialogue folk shared much in common. Active. Engaged. Action focused. Gaining ground. The Abingdon folk decided they would come back together as a group “Consider what we’ve heard and keep doing our work,” was the way Anthony summed it up. “I want to come back,” said Rev. Jackie Nophlin of Bristol, Virginia.
Anthony asked the question. They had learned a lot, shared a lot about the good work going on with everyone around the table. He asked, “What shall we do?”
The Rev. Jackie Nophlin of Bristol, VA. “I want to come back,” she said when the assembled group was asked what next?
Anthony Flaccavento, below right, reached out to TCG. A recent candidate for the the U.S. Congress and outspoken advocate , Anthony invited TCG to meet with local leadership to share lessons learned by the DOR in starting up and maintaining its presence and impact. It would be an opportunity for TCG to learn from the groups that would assemble in Abingdon.
Rector Boyd Evans of St. Thomas Episcopal Church and Buckey Boone of the Appalachian Peace Education Center. Rector Boyd spoke about the trail of tears, an observation, annual service of healing, reconciliation, lament marking the passage of enslaved Africans being force marched along what is now U.S. Route 11. How and where it all started.
Penny Franklin, founding president of TCG shared, “Being seen and being heard is vital.” “Don’t mess with my kids,” she said as she spoke of why she got engaged and started taking action for change nearly two decades ago. “How will our kids deal with the lifelong racist trauma they suffer at the hands of the public school system?” she asked.
Dr. Wornie Reed, a professor of sociology at Virginia Tech, serves on the Dialogue on Race Steering Group. He is working currently with groups in Roanoke City and Franklin County aiming to start up initiatives in their communities to combat racism. Sharing lessons learned, Wornie has been deeply impressed by local leadership in these communities. “We don’t give a damn about hearts and minds. You don’t succeed by changing hearts and minds. You do it by changing behavior.”
Ryan Henderson: “The success of The Community Group is in specificity. Seems to me we don’t have that specificity drawn out.”
Steve Fisher raised questions about the efficacy and impact of concerted action.
The exchange between the folk around the table was rich and compelling. Marcie Barnes spoke of her experiences living in the community, “My kids left and are thriving. Not just surviving.”
“Images of the St. Thomas Family” posted in the fellowship hall of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Abingdon, VA