Pacific Lutheran University announcement.
The 10th edition of The People’s Gathering will ask a stark question: Do you really want to talk about racism? “Most people really don’t — and they run from the discomfort,” says Melannie Denise Cunningham, PLU’s director of multicultural outreach and engagement who founded The People’s Gathering in 2017.
This is the first time that The People’s Gathering will be facilitated by a group from outside PLU.
Cunningham expects the Houston-based Center for Healing Racism will bring its proven strategy and curriculum that’s designed to get audiences talking. The 32-year-old Center describes its work as “programs designed to facilitate healing from our national disease of ignorance around racism.”
“We want to give a platform to our audience for understanding how to talk about racism — and also offer time to practice,” Cunningham says. She urges people who feel confident in their ability to tackle the subject to attend because “this is a movement of dialogue to face the issue head on. The more we teach how, the more folks we can reach.”
The format provides time for dialogue across racial communities and among racial communities. Explains Cunningham: “The registration system asks participants to declare the box they check on the U.S. Census form when asked to declare their race.”
The request helps participants explore how they navigate race based on their self-identified racial group. The final session of the day provides a space for a collective dialogue among all groups.
On March 24, the Center for Healing Racism will lead a morning session to teach about seven different types of racism, and challenge participants to learn that racism is more than individual acts of meanness. Participants examine their racial conditioning and how it affects their lives and the lives of others.
Breakout sessions ask groups of seven to 10 people to reflect on what they have learned and share how they feel about it — although no one is obliged to speak and remaining silent is an option.
The People’s Gathering was originally conceived as an annual event to promote frank and open dialogue about race. But the demand for more opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation on the topic prompted a move to twice-a-year gatherings, which happen in spring and fall.
“This is our 10th convening, and we have folks who have attended all 10 gatherings,” Cunningham says.