‘Sun­day Sup­per’ se­ries in Queen Anne’s con­tin­ues

Record Observer - - News - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — The third of the “Sun­day Sup­per” con­ver­sa­tions about race in Queen Anne’s County ac­tu­ally con­tin­ued on Thurs­day, Nov. 10, at 4:30 p.m. Af­ter a huge din­ner pro­vided by many tal­ented vol­un­teers, dis­cus­sions among di­verse groups, many ed­u­ca­tors from across the county took place around 19 ta­bles inside the large ban­quet room of Cen­tre­ville United Methodist Church. All of the “Sun­day Sup­per” dis­cus­sions are open to the pub­lic to at­tend and par­tic­i­pate, how­ever, county ed­u­ca­tors were specif­i­cally in­vited to this one.

At each ta­ble, promi­nently placed, a def­i­ni­tion of the “Sun­day Sup­per” goal: “To pro­mote un­der­stand­ing of racial is­sues and strengthen re­la­tion­ship in or­der to make Queen Anne’s County a more lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate com­mu­nity.” Along with that were two dis­tinct mes­sages re­mind­ing ed­u­ca­tors of their sig­nif­i­cant roles: a quote from philoso­pher Henry B. Adams — “A teacher af­fects eter­nity: he can never tell where his in­flu­ence stops” — and from Joseph Ad­di­son — “What sculp­ture is to a block of mar­ble, ed­u­ca­tion is to the hu­man soul.”

Chal­leng­ing all who were present, Queen Anne’s County In­terim Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Greg Pilewski said, “This even­ing is all about strength­en­ing re­la­tion­ships.”

It wasn’t long be­fore the room was roar­ing with noise from en­er­getic dis­cus­sions from each ta­ble.

Three ques­tions were asked of the groups at each ta­ble. The first, an ice-breaker, ex­plain the origin of your first name. The sec­ond, de­scribe your per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion with race. And third, what can we do to im­prove racial re­la­tions in Queen Anne’s County? Each per­son at each ta­ble was sup­posed to talk about the an­swers for each ques­tion. It pro­vided for some in­ter­est­ing and en­light­en­ing dis­cus­sions.

At one ta­ble, one per­son de­scribed grow­ing up in a school sys­tem that had lim­ited racial di­ver­sity. An­other said, “I never at­tended school with any African Amer­i­cans un­til I was in the sev­enth grade. In­te­gra­tion had taken place slowly where I grew up.”

He later learned that African Amer­i­can par­ents in that time (1960s) had been given a choice by the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion in an­other Mar yland county (not Queen Anne’s), “Your child can at­tend the school clos­est to your home, or, a bus will be pro­vided to drive your child to the tra­di­tional all-black school like you had at­tended.”

It was used as a de­lay­ing tac­tic for in­te­gra­tion in that county un­til the U.S, Supreme Court in­ter­vened, telling that county that let­ters like that were not what was in­tended by the di­rec­tive in the Brown vs. Board of Ed­u­ca­tion de­ci­sion in 1954, to “de-seg­re­gate with all de­lib­er­ate speed.”

“Forced bus­ing” ac­tu­ally fol­lowed in that Mary­land county in 1971.

How­ever, demon­strat­ing lead­er­ship, Queen Anne’s County fully in­te­grated schools with the open­ing of Queen Anne’s County High School in 1967.

An­other per­son de­scribed grow­ing up in Cam­bridge, Mary­land, and how seg­re­gated that com­mu­nity had been in the 1960s, and re­cently vis­it­ing Cam­bridge with his fam­ily, and find­ing that not much had ap­peared to have changed. The town still ap­pears vis­i­bly to be racially di­vided. “African-Amer­i­cans on one side of town, whites on the other side.”

The noise level that even­ing was loud, with dis­cus­sions at all 19 ta­bles reach­ing an “ex­cite­ment pitch.” One uniden­ti­fied per­son took the mi­cro­phone ask­ing, “Can we all just have one per­son speak at a time at each ta­ble?”

At the con­clu­sion of the even­ing, a sum­mar y of dis­cus­sion learn­ing was pre­sented.

One per­son said, “I en­joyed the en­ergy lev­els we had here tonight — let’s keep it go­ing!”

An­other said, “Let our chil­dren in school to­mor­row know, we’re fix­ing our­selves by our dis­cus­sions tonight.”

An ex­am­ple was given from the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity as to why it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the use of words when ad­dress­ing African-Amer­i­can chil­dren. The word what can be used in an in­flam­ma­tory and de­grad­ing way. “What?” can be used to be­lit­tle a child, and that should be avoided when hop­ing to build trust or ac­cept­ing re­la­tion­ships, they said.

“We need to learn to cel­e­brate the dif­fer­ences that ex­ist among us,” one at­tendee added.

It was also ex­plained what the “brown pa­per bag test” was among African-Amer­i­cans for many pre­vi­ous years. For an African-Amer­i­can, if the pig­men­ta­tion of your skin was lighter than a brown pa­per bag, you had a bet- ter chance of be­ing ac­cepted in the white world than if your skin color was darker than a brown pa­per bag. It was ad­mit­ted among African-Amer­i­cans at­tend­ing the meet­ing that even­ing “that test was some­times used for dis­crim­i­na­tion even within the African Amer­i­can racial group.”

An ex­am­ple one per­son gave for the third dis­cus­sion ques­tion was, “Our church re­cently had a wor­ship ser­vice out­doors, meet­ing with an all African-Amer­i­can con­gre­ga­tion here in Cen­tre­ville. It was a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence of dif­fer­ent racial groups com­ing to­gether.”

Sports ac­tiv­i­ties, chil­dren play­ing on in­te­grated teams, ap­pears to have helped bring dif­fer­ent racial groups to­gether, and there’s a history of that all across the na­tion which is pos­i­tive, oth­ers said.

The next Sun­day Sup­per will be in Fe­bru­ary. The Sun­day Sup­pers are spon­sored by the Mul­ti­cul­tural Pro­fi­ciency Sub­com­mit­tee of the Queen Anne’s County Lo­cal Man­age­ment Board. Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials from Queen Anne’s County will be the spe­cific group in­vited.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Open and frank dis­cus­sions about ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences and racial re­la­tion­ships took place Thurs­day even­ing, Nov. 10, at Cen­tre­ville United Methodist Church. Stu­dents, teach­ers, school ad­min­is­tra­tors and com­mu­nity mem­bers par­tic­i­pated.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

One ta­ble among the 19 ta­bles pic­tured at the on­go­ing Sun­day Sup­per dis­cus­sions on im­prov­ing racial re­la­tions, Thurs­day even­ing, Nov. 10, at Cen­tre­ville United Methodist Church. That even­ing, ed­u­ca­tors in par­tic­u­lar were in­vited to par­tic­i­pate. Next ses­sion is sched­uled for Fe­bru­ary, where lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials will be asked to join in.

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