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Mindful : June 2016
The Welcome Table happens in three phases. Each lasts approximately six months. That deepening has slowly beg un in Calhoun County, a near-rectangle of cattle and sweet-po- tato fields and tin-roofed houses with bottle trees in their yards. At monthly meetings, Win- ter Institute facilitators offer prompts for the group to discuss either collectively or in pairs and trios. Nine g uidelines—maintain confidenti- ality and respect silence among them—help mem- bers feel comfortable opening up and ensure that no one dominates the conversation. The friendships and epiphanies that emerge are not the end goals. But they’re foundational steps. Over the months Dudley Davis listened to his African-American neighbors, he developed a more palpable sense of how racism harms people he had grown to care about. Davis also realized he had inherited a bit of his father’s reticence about antagonizing other whites. “I served on a lot of boards and committees, and so many of the members were such racists that I didn’t like to take up racial issues. I just sort of let it go,” he says. Listening to candid and painful stories—from people who have treated him with kindness—has recalibrated Davis’ priorities. Over time, he has vowed to call out offensive remarks from his white neighbors. “I was trying to please everyone and get along,” he says. “Eventually you have to become a little more committed.” Judy Edwards, for her part, has found herself drawn to Davis’ vulnerability as he’s talked about his upbringing. “It touched me because he broke the barrier,” she says. “ He really didn’t know how we, as black citizens, were going to take what he was trying to say.” Edwards says she has offered reassurance to whites like Davis who → Friendships can emerge from the Welcome Table, as is the case for Nancy Dixon and Steven Kennedy of New Orleans, whose disparate experiences with the criminal justice system brought them together. 1 Self-Reflection and Relationship Building Includes monthly commu- nity meetings focused on developing relationships and building trust. Participants spend a weekend together on retreat. 2 Education and Discernment The group decides on a project to work on together. A project could be anything from an oral history, a civil rights driving tour, an after- school mentoring program, scholarships for students to attend previously unafford- able summer enrichment pro- grams, adding playgrounds in neighborhoods that had none, or building a community cen- ter or community garden. Training continues through monthly workshops. 3 Equity Development The group receives training to develop an equity plan. An equity plan identifies a structure that creates or perpetuates inequity in the community—such as a city policy, a hiring practice, the composition of a committee, or a community tradition— and works with the stakehold- ers to change that structure. BUILDING TRUST, CREATING CHANGE June 2016 mindful 57