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Mindful : June 2016
It has, ideally, three phases. The initial months are focused on trust-building through a curriculum of structured storytelling exercises, culminating in a more intensive weekend-long retreat. In Phase 2, the groups start planning manageable projects: a tutoring program, an ice cream social, the development of a public-li- brary civil-rights collection. The facilitators also step up their training in concepts like microag- gressions (everyday insults, often unintentional) and structural bias (systemic practices that perpetuate inequalities). Phase 3 is still in development. As the insti- tute envisions this final step, groups will develop “equity projects” that identify and address local structural bias. “I will be very frank: We have never taken a community all the way through where we’ve said, You’ve graduated; you’ve done your equity project,” Grayson says. Reconciliation is slow work, and facilitators don’t want groups to dive into ambitious projects too quickly. The institute uses a matrix called Community Com- pass to measure how participants talk about race, and how well they work together. Based on the “compass of readiness,” Grayson says, the institute has paused some communities before they’ve immersed themselves into Phase 3. Besides, building trust is, by itself, a pro- found step. When Welcome Table members from Oxford, an hour north of Calhoun County, attended an overnight retreat last October, everyone was instructed to bring water from a personally meaningful source. Several carried water from places they considered home, an affirmation of the deep sense of place felt by black and white Southerners alike. Don Cole, an assistant provost at the University of Missis- sippi, brought water from the whites-only lake in which he could not swim as a child. Nicole Gladden, a white artist, brought a sealed jar containing the water in which her son was baptized almost 20 years earlier. She explained that his death as an infant reconnected her to the Catholic faith of her childhood. One by one, members poured their water into a common vessel; even Gladden parted with some of the baptismal water. “ When you’re in this kind of thing, it only works if you’re all in,” she says. “ You can’t hold back.” Oxford, home to the university and the Win- ter Institute, is often singled out for its sophis- tication. “I regard it as a little oasis,” says Cole. “There’s Mississippi, and then there’s Oxford.” WELCOMING REAL COMMUNICATION The Welcome Table’s nine guideposts offer straightforward advice for diving into meaningful conversation. GUIDEPOSTS Be 100% present. Set aside the usual distractions of things undone from yester- day, things to do tomorrow. Bring all of yourself to the work. Practice hospitality. We all learn most effectively in spaces that welcome us. Welcome others to this place and this work, and presume that you are welcomed. Listen intently to what is said; listen to the feelings beneath the words. Listen to your- self also. Strive to achieve a balance between listening and reflecting, speaking and acting. You will be invited to share in pairs, small groups, and in the large group. The invitation is exactly that. You will determine the extent to which you want to partici- pate in our discussions and activities. Each of us is here to discover our own truths, to listen to our own inner teacher, to take our own inner journey. We are not here to help right another’s wrong, to “fix” or “correct” what we perceive as broken or incorrect in another mem- ber of the group. 1 3 2 Be present and welcoming Listen deeply to learn No fixing For more information on the Welcome Table visit the Winter Institute’s website: winterinstitute.org 60 mindful June 2016 community