Sept. 15, 2016
With the help of strawberry cake and chocolate pie, students, faculty, staff and community members were invited to start a conversation about violence and work together to find solutions.
Peggy Hinds, interim executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, facilitated the annual “Conversation and Dessert,” Tuesday evening in the Curris Center Ballroom. This year, the discussion began with how people relate to violence.
Hinds broke up the 86 attendees into groups with six to eight people to bring discussions to a personal level.
“I’m not going to lecture you tonight,” Hinds said. “Most of the content that’s going to come out of this evening is going to come from you.”
The office of LGBT Programming organizes the event every year, but the topic of violence brought people of every background to the table.
“I am here because I face discrimination and racism the whole time I am [in the United States],” Sara Alkharas, freshman from Kuwait City, said. “I want to get to know people with other experiences.”
Coordinator of LGBT Programming Jody Cofer Randall said for the past four years, the topic of the event was specific to the LGBT community and this year’s was inspired by the Pulse nightclub shooting in June.
“This year, because of all of the violence taking place across the country, we decided to use this as just another program that we could focus in on violence,” Cofer Randall said. “There’s a problem in this country that we’re not talking about.”
To begin the conversation, those in attendance were encouraged to share stories about a time violence has affected their lives. These stories included violence against differences in race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity and economic status along with domestic, sexual and psychological violence.
Hinds asked each group to consider what types of violence they have seen in this community, choose one and try to think of 10 potential solutions for the problem.
“It’s hard getting started, but once you get started and get into discussion about it, you come up with more ideas,” Hinds said.
Although most of the groups couldn’t come up with the full 10, the attendees found strength in numbers, and together they made suggestions like publicizing support resources, increasing cultural education to breaking down the barriers of misunderstanding, creating safe spaces and even simply taking someone out for coffee.
In her work as a coach and consultant, Hinds said she frequently hears people say they feel so overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem of violence and they think there’s nothing they can do. But as this exercise showed, once you start the conversation, “you will be amazed at how many possibilities you can come up with.”
“You don’t have to solve the world’s problems, but you can do something,” she said.
Originally published to JMC397ReportingforPrintMedia.wordpress.com on Sept. 26, 2016.