Doing the Work: Courageous Conversation

One of the blessings of the most recent Thanksgiving was to celebrate it with my sons. It was a wonderful combination of family favorite activities and new adventures. When my sons were young we used to have what we lovingly called ‘forced family fun’. Those days are gone, but on occasion there are times when I feel like there is something that is worthy of the whole family’s engagement. Such was the occasion when we gathered at the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.

As a parent I have been impressed with the work my sons have engaged with around race. Growing up as young white men is different now more than ever. They have lived, been educated and socialize in a racially diverse reality. With that said, I am particularly pleased that they both know they still have much to learn about their experience growing up as a white male versus other people’s experience. I continue to strive to be a role model in this sphere of their world as I am clear about the amount of work I have done, and how much more I need to do as a white male of significant privilege.

This last week I was once again fortunate to work with stellar folks from Courageous Conversation. This organization, “…engage(s) in sustained partnerships featuring training, coaching and consulting to transform beliefs, behaviors and results so people of all races can achieve at their highest levels and live their most empowered and powerful lives.” I have found working with them consistently thought provoking and positively challenging. Courageous Conversation believes this work is about, “Equity transformation rather than random acts of equity (diversity).”

Courageous Conversation suggests for this work to truly be transformative there are three guiding principles:

Engage – your understanding of your experience

Sustain – even when it gets difficult

Deepen – learnings

And as such there are The Four Agreements they invite all who are doing this work to:

• Stay Engaged

• Experience Discomfort

• Speak your Truth

• Expect / Accept non-closure

As many of you know, I am blessed to call Dr. Catherine Meeks a friend and a colleague. She continues to be a north star for me as I continue to unwrap the onion of racism in my own life and in the systems and communities I am a part of. Recently, I was working on a retreat with Catherine where I was fortunate to listen to her share a variety of readings from her new book, The Night is Long but Light Comes in the Morning. The book is a series of essays that Catherine has written and I highly recommend it to you. Also, of recent, I have been reading Wendell Beery’s new book, The Need to be Whole, Patriotism and the History of Prejudice. Through his usual rural lens, Berry does a phenomenal job weaving the history of the land with the history of racism.

While there is so much work to do, Catherine often reminds us, the real work is to become well; both individually and as a people. And she always follows this reminder with the encouragement to work on being a half a shade braver every day. This is my work, this is the work I was inviting my sons to engage in by spending time in Montgomery, this is all our work.

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