“It’s not so much the issues to talk about tonight, it’s important to get to know somebody else.”
– Pastor Brant Copeland, Presbyterian Church
“If you’ve got two hands full of food, you can’t hit anybody.”
– Larry Mc Graw, Tallahasee Resident
The biggest communication problem is that most of us want to speak but only a few are willing to listen and understand. We are often too conscious about who we converse with for fear that others will judge us for the people we choose to associate ourselves with. Society has set this standard and more often than not, these standards have left us distant. The rise of social media has created a “new world” where communicating has become faster and easier but “artificial”. People have grown attached to social media where friendships are made through the “add as friend” button rather than finding the time to introduce oneself to a new colleague in the office or a homeless person in the street. The irony is that, while communicating have evolved and has become more convenient we face the challenge of fulfilling the essence of communication which is finding common ground and sharing our stories in order to understand each other and build a community of people who understands each other.
The City of Tallahassee through the initiative of Mayor Andrew Gilum recognizes this problem and has responded to it through projects/initiatives that will bring people together in order to speak and understand each other—Tallahassee Forward and The Long Table.
Tallahasse Forward is a biennial conversation series about divisive issues in the City. It is an intentional space where Community leaders, City officials and the Citizens of Tallahassee come together as one community to help create connections through conversation and learning. This year the event focused on how the whole country and the City of Tallahassee can move towards a proactive approach of coming up with solutions to some of the most pressing concerns such as racial discrimination, juvenile justice, peace and order, poverty and education.
This year’s Tallahasse Forward had Bakari Sellers as Keynote speaker and panel discussion moderator. In his speech, Bakari identified two major challenges in reference to racial and political division; “How far have we come? Where do we go from here?” Bakari is known as the youngest state representative in South Carolina at 22 and is currently working as a lawyer and CNN Political Analyst. In the assembly, Bakari shared hw his father became his inspiration to work and advocate for a more inclusive society free from the threat of discrimination and segregation.
Tallahassee Forward is a promising initiative to counter the prevailing culture of apathy and individuality. It concretizes what it means to be part of the solution in order to affect positive change.
The Longest Table
For three years now, the Longest Table has given the City of Tallahassee and Leon County an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships across diverse communities. For a community that is diverse, it is a challenge to bring people together to talk as biases and prejudices always get in the way of a meaningful conversation. This inspired the City and the County to foster an inclusive attitude among community members by breaking the walls the separate people from conversing with each other.
A long table was set up and home-grown restaurants served good food for all attendees. It is inspiring to see families sitting beside each other and introducing themselves. The mood was festive, the entire street filled with laughter from people who went out of their way to take part in the activity and take the first step towards solidarity and inclusion.
My Take Away
My biggest take away after participating in the two activities is that, in a society where there is so much hatred and division, we are all challenged to break the walls that separates us and create a space where we can all sit down and talk. It is important to be vocal about opinion and ideas but it is equally important to know when to stop talking and start listening. It is the simplest things in life that we take for granted and it is in these simple things that we can start changing the world.