THE BLOG

Building Bridges: From 'Selma' to the Dinner Table

02/24/2015 04:34 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2015

The most challenging part of moving forward, in regards to race is how we make the sentiments of change into the reality we live. As Common and John Legend took the stage at Sunday night's Oscars to accept an award for 'Best Original Song', they carried with them a narrative that has woven itself through our American story. Slavery and racial division were present at the birth of our nation and they are present now.

Today, artists and citizens alike seek a way to bridge the divides that still linger from our history. Storytelling has always been a powerful way to share the emotions and realities of a particular lived experience. As we saw and were reminded of in Selma, the story of fighting for racial equality is still pertinent today. "This bridge was once a symbol for a divided nation, now it's a symbol for change," stated Common at last night's Academy Awards.

Though our country has progressed in institutionalizing particular laws and rights surrounding the issue of race discrimination, there is still much work to be done. The culture that we create now has the ability to influence both the government and perhaps even more immediately relevant, the lives of those around us.

While millions gathered around their TV's to watch the awards show, a small group met in the Bay Area to talk about race, face to face. Strangers and friends alike gathered in a small theatre to watch Cracking the Codes, a documentary produced by Shakti Butler. A part of a national discussion series hosted by deliberateLIFE, the screening and subsequent dinner are an effort to create safe spaces for difficult conversations.

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Many of the bridges that we still need to cross as a nation can be created through honest and vulnerable dialogue, but coming to the table to talk about a difficult topic can feel daunting. As humans, it is our first instinct to actively resolve dissonance and therefore we often avoid difficult or uncomfortable conversations. Yet, to move forward we must move through.

Lynette Ward, a young black woman who also attended a previous event, shared what she found powerful about these face-to-face meetings. We should "never underestimate the power of small exchanges. It's often in those simple moments when we're being our most authentic human selves that are biases are shown. If we're open and willing in that moment to be uncomfortable and explore those biases [then] profound change can happen. That's the sweet spot. To me, that's what these dinners are about; creating the space where we can all have that moment and move forward."

To initiate yesterday's conversation, we used the power of film to illustrate people's current perspectives and start our discussion about race. If you looked around the theater last night, you would have seen black, white, Hispanic, South Asian faces -- but regardless of the racial similarities and differences, each individual held within them a unique lived experience.

Selma reminds us that because racial discrimination is a human issue, it's an everyone issue. Just as the movement gained positive momentum when those around the U.S., regardless of race came to march against discrimination, we too must unite across race to address today's challenges.

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Eliminating racism is a process -- a process that requires patience, persistence and unity. Andre Anderson, an attendee of the documentary screening commented, "Change happens in pockets. You do it in those small little increments, which I don't always think about because I want to hit the homerun. I want to walk out of here as an agent of change."

Though building bridges can be tiresome, many hands make for light work. Join the conversation.