What happens when a community with a common faith and goal join together? You get a Community Based Ministry Café. On Saturday, May 17, 2014, community leaders from various faith denominations gathered at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC to learn how to engage the community through ministry. As part of the Café, our very own Tonya Cross led an hour long workshop called Embracing Community Diversity: A panel discussion of race, justice and beloved community. This workshop consisted of a panel including Tonya, Deseré Cross and Evelyn Medina.
The purpose of the workshop was to address barriers in the community that prevent people of different backgrounds from working together. Each panelist addressed a different barrier. Tonya talked about self-segregation, suggesting that one reason why communities have a hard time creating change is because within a community, people self-segregate themselves, meaning they separate themselves from others who do not look like them or have the same beliefs.
The second panelist, Deseré, talked about stereotypes. Stereotypes are assumptions people make about a group of people based on preconceived notions. Deseré suggested the best way to combat stereotypes is to be aware of the assumptions you have about certain groups of people and to not allow those assumptions to prevent you from interacting with new and different groups of people.
Evelyn, the third panelist, shared her personal story about how she ensures her children are exposed to different cultures. Her story sparked a conversation about how non-exposure to different cultures can act as a barrier to your willingness to work with people who are different from you.
A fourth panelist, who was unable to make it, was to discuss how language also serves as a barrier that prevents people from working together with people from different backgrounds. Although the panelist who was to cover this topic was unable to attend, the barrier was still brought up in conversation and was addressed by Tonya and Evelyn.
Overall, the workshop was a success and received good reviews from participants in the Café. Special thanks to all of our panelists and participants who contributed to a wonderful discussion about barriers in our community that can prevent us from collectively building our community. As you live your daily lives, we encourage you to mingle outside the box, be aware of stereotypes, and expose yourself to new people and things.
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