‘Sunday Supper’ series in Queen Anne’s continues
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.
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.
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.