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Some said they’d like to see an annual event like the forum, while others requested smaller monthly gatherings. People were also pleased to see young people were involved, he said.
The Twin Cities Shooting Stars Hmong youth dance group, the rap group Renegade and an American Indian drum and dance group from the Osseo Indian Education Program performed. A group of 10 children presented a skit that drew on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
A handful of students joined in the discussion circles after their performance wrapped up.
“The big takeaway is that when people stop and listen to one another, they want to hear more. People give each other insights,” Siverson-Hall said, adding, “You can get insights from a second-grader or an 80-year-old. That’s why we need to convene a spot for people to talk about it and share their truth.”
A safe place to talk
Michelle Perdue, a teacher, actor and motivational speaker who lives in Brooklyn Park, said the event piqued her interest because “I wanted to go beyond just living in my community to being a part of it and having a greater understanding of how race affects us all.”
Perdue, who is black, said race is a topic “that needs to be addressed.” The forum offered a rare opportunity to do just that, she said.
“It creates a platform for people to address their fears and ideologies about race in an environment that’s safe, structured and supportive,” she said.
Hearing thoughts from others at her table, particularly from two white men, was eye-opening for her. “We often hear people of color addressing issues of prejudice,” she said. “It was interesting to hear the two share their vulnerability and sensitivity about race.”
Perdue said she was struck by how the men felt like “they’re carrying the weight of generations before them and they have a sense of responsibility about the social or economic disadvantages that people of color have to face.”
She said she could relate to being in uncomfortable situations where it feels as though she must represent her race.
She said she was also struck by the testimony of another person at her table whose “story was really heartfelt. She talked about going to work, feeling as if she’s being judged based on her ethnicity vs. her credentials.”
For Perdue, the moral of the story is that no matter “who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin, we are more alike than we are different,” she said.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.