Listen to Neil Phillips’ talk Race to Truth online here. Find all the pictures from this event online here. Read coverage of the event in the Tallahassee Democrat here. Editorial ahead of event, in the Tallahassee Democrat: In the year prior to his assassination, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King isolated himself in a house […]
In the year prior to his assassination, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King isolated himself in a house in Jamaica where he wrote what was to become his final book. King said he felt at home there: “In Jamaica I feel like a human being.”
“One day, here in America,” said King, “I hope that we will see this and we will become one big family of Americans.”
Nearly 50 years later, it is an aching American tragedy that we find ourselves with issues of race, arguably, as emotional, divisive and consequential as in King’s time.
The culmination of King’s thinking in Jamaica ultimately became the book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” In it he offers this stark warning: “Together we must learn to live together as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”
In 2016, our failure to “live together as brothers” has gone to seed in what increasingly – almost by the day in this presidential season – feels like the chaos King foreshadowed. But right beside his tragic premonition of our future is also his uncanny prescription of a path forward. To King the answer lies, at least in part, with community.
At the Village Square, we’ve long believed that the revival of American geographic community across differences of opinion and demographics is ultimately the only thing that can save us. No matter how profound our disagreement runs, we’re still neighbors whose lives intersect.
And right now, we think there is no more important conversation to have than on the issue of race. While eliciting a wide range of emotions that many would rather avoid, the time to have this conversation is before a tragedy leads us on a path to become the next Ferguson, Missouri or Baltimore, Maryland.
So on Thursday at the Moon, Leon County Government and the Village Square will host our next Club of Honest Citizens program titled “Created Equal: A conversation about race + founding ideals + our hometown.” Approximately 200 citizens will gather to discuss how we can bridge the racial divide that exists in our community. The evening will be facilitated by attorney Chuck Hobbs and will feature a keynote by Neil Phillips. (Visit www.picatic.com/created-equal or call 570-3327 for reservations.)
The Thursday night event is not meant to be a “one and done” conversation. We will build on it by challenging those who attend to spend the coming year intentionally stretching beyond their usual groups to form community across race, religious, ethnic, cultural and ideological divides.
The Village Square will then continue to host other gatherings through the year, including an inaugural “Race to the Movies” screening of the film “Selma” at All Saints Cinema on April 4. Then we’ll invite everyone back to the Club of Honest Citizens next spring to build on what we hope will be a year’s worth of momentum.
Liz Joyner is the executive director of the Village Square, a nonprofit devoted to building civil discourse on matters of local, state and national importance.
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