Indianapolis’ Spirit & Place – the civic engagement organization – is hosting a series of conversations on race over the next year. Community Engagement Director LaShawnda Crowe Storm says there is a real need to talk openly about race in Indianapolis, and it’s almost always uncomfortable.
“If anyone thinks they’re colorblind, they’re really being naive," Crowe Storm says. "And that’s really more damaging – the notion that you’re colorblind – than it is for you to confront your own self and your own biases and how those kind of even hidden triggers of things that you have are actually impacting how you interact with individuals.”
The dialogue series “Powerful Conversations on Race” uses passages from the Charleston Syllabus, a compendium created after a white supremacist shot nine black bible study members in their South Carolina church two years ago.
The monthly conversations will cover seven topics during the year.
“First two months about slavery, then we move on to Jim Crowe," Crowe Storm says. "We understand the Civil War from various perspectives, the civil rights movement, Indiana history. Those are some broad-based sections of the books that we’ll be covering.”
Conversation facilitators like Amy Tompkins trained for several weeks to guide the conversations. She says she's learned something new every time.
“We participated in three or four different conversations where we used a poem or a short story and were able to participate and see what it was like to be a participant," Tompkins says. "So we knew what we were gonna be asking people to do when we were facilitating them.”
Facilitator Debra Jarvis says these sessions are difficult but illuminating.
“You learn that there are multiple perspectives and multiple truths from which to view the world," Jarvis says. "And you expand your own understanding of the world and cultural biases that you may have that you didn’t know you have.”
The first conversation is Sunday, Sept. 10, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Community Center. It focuses on "Slavery, Survival and Community Building."