Challenging the status quo at World Café discussion

By Maria Montalvo | Nov 08, 2017

The Edmonds Diversity Commission hosted its second annual World Café-style event Oct. 14, hearing from the public on topics related to diversity and inclusion. It also saw community members participating actively in conversations, telling stories, asking questions, listening to and learning from each other.

A group of 33 Edmonds residents, including Edmonds City Council members Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Christiana Johnson and State Rep. Strom Peterson, spent the morning challenging each other to talk openly about complex issues.

“We are here today to engage in healthy conversation on current issues and hopefully come up with some possible recommendations and solutions to help our community,” said Ed Dorame, Edmonds Diversity Commission co-chair.

“This is your opportunity to have a voice on these issues. What we learn from this World Café will help the Diversity Commission focus its work in the coming year. Discussion topics included the national anthem protests, transgender rights, religious intolerance, DACA and the Dreamers, and “getting outside our bubble,” or the silos that have been created that keep groups with differing views from interacting.

The Diversity Commission chose the World Café format because it is intended to facilitate open and intimate discussion. Scenarios are meant to provoke and challenge, while the setting is meant to develop a level of comfort to speak freely.

“I understand the reason behind the protects,” military veteran Sue Lentz said, “but I wish they could find another mechanism to bring awareness to people. The symbol being attacked is too strong to veterans who swore an oath to that flag.”

While others felt that the topic of police brutality has been protested for decades to no avail, and if not at a time and place that gets attention, then when and where? Several also brought up the protests at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics by African-American athletes.

There was a consistent theme throughout the event that citizens need to step out of their comfort zones and engage others, especially those who are different from themselves.

“When we step out of our bubble, we are able to see others more clearly, and they can also see us more clearly. We choose our own bubbles,” said Misha Carter, Diversity Commission administrator.

Building common ground was likened to learning a new language ¬ it takes effort.

“Learning comes when you start from a place of humility,” Alicia Crank said.

By the end of the two-hour session, participants challenged the Diversity Commission to take the recommendations and lessons learned and ensure that they were incorporated into its ongoing work plan, a challenge accepted by the five commissioners present.

“Everything we heard today will become part of our work in the year to come,” said commissioner Diana White.

Maria Montalvo is co-chair of the Edmonds Diversity Commission.

 

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