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Kansas City leaders leap into race conversation, action

Posted by: Gordon on 3/17/2016
Kansas City Honest Conversation About Race Zion Baptist Church
After meeting within their own congregations and communities for several months, leaders of MORE2 gathered Feb. 29 for a 'Leap into Action' toward building the beloved community envisioned by Civil Rights movements of the past and present. 

More than 600 Kansas-City-area faith and community leaders gathered at the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, MORE2, Honest Conversations on Race: Leap into Action at the end of February.

“All the churches and organizations came together,” said Joi Wickliffe, a leader on the MORE2 Access to Health Task Force and member of Zion Grove Baptist Church. “That was a beautiful thing because it was interfaith…. it wasn’t just black Baptist Churches or black Methodist churches, it was also Jewish synagogues and Unitarians and others.”

Leaders of the group have been making the drive to St. Louis to support the work for racial justice of Gamaliel affiliate Metropolitan Congregations United since Michael Brown was killed in August 2014. Last fall they developed their own process to facilitate discussion about structural racism modeled on MCU’s Sacred Conversations (plus Action).

After training facilitators and holding a kickoff event around Thanksgiving, congregations began a series of meetings and conversations, such as investigating what led to Kanas City's Troost Avenue becoming a racial and community dividing line, all of which led to the Leap Into Action Feb. 29.

During the event participants discussed the racial implications of policy decisions in the city and what drives feelings of oppression and privilege. Organizational task force leaders presented their issues and laid out plans for the coming year and what it will take to create the beloved community in Kansas City.

“Sometimes I think people really don’t see the injustice – they can see the problems but they don’t have words for what’s really causing it,” Wickliffe said. “They see the overt racism – calling somebody a derogatory term – but I don’t think they see the systematic things that happen.”

For example, her task force presented a difference between the health outcomes for an African-American child vs a Caucasian child who live in different zip codes, and in one of the breakouts an African-American described how she and a white woman with similar symptoms had found they experienced different levels of care from the same local hospital.

“That was a good way to get the conversation going… putting those narratives out there and changing the dominant narrative,” Wickliffe said. Shifting narratives or stories that people believe about the way things work can be a difficult process, but is the most effective way to bring about lasting change, she added: “It does feel like the start of something big.”

The event also garnered significant news coverage including from local TV news and online

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