It has been called "The Last Battle of the Civil War." "Mississippi Burning." "The Bombing Capital of Freedom Summer." "The Spark that started the Civil Rights Movement." A notorious site of racial trauma and violence and avoided by many human rights organizations, Mississippi has long been an easy scapegoat for other places to make themselves feel better.
But for the Glisson Group, Mississippi is home. It is the "Movement's Broadway," as one SNCC mentor, Charles "Chuck" McDew, told our president and founder. It's the place of "Mama'anem," another mentor, the Reverend Will D. Campbell shared, where family and love can be both comfort in the storm and sometimes the hypocritical shield that blinds us to prevent truth-telling.
It is in this place feared by most and yet loved by enough to make a difference that the Glisson Group has learned how to end racism. The recipe is simple but profound and not for the faint of heart: presence, purpose and power, which are cultivated through healing, education and repair.
Healing emerges through authentic stories excavated in vulnerable inner work and shared in psychologically safe spaces; neither shame nor blame cultivate it. Rather, it lives in genuine presence, both for ourselves and with each other.
Education resides in telling the truth, even if it's hard, and becoming an engaged citizen aware not only of one's rights but also one's obligations to others. As we understand the obstacles before us, we find our collective purpose for working together.
Repair results from intentional, creative and on-going responses to the devastation wrought by racism and white supremacy. Through organizing, people with a shared vision find each other and amplify and achieve their mutual dreams of creating a just and welcoming world.
These lessons, born of hard work, commitment, and imagination, are now manifest in a trust-building, relationship-forming and community organizing process called The Welcome Table™. Used effectively in more than twenty-five states and influenced by best practices in other sites of conflict like Northern Ireland and South Africa, The Welcome Table™ is a powerful tool for ending racism and cultivating interdependence.
It requires people of good will, who don't have to agree with each other, but who see that substantive, systematic and sustainable change to division and discrimination require courage, persistence and creativity. As Margaret Wheatley says, we need "warriors for the human spirit."
Are you ready to make a difference? As the members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) used to say, "Come. Let us build a new world together." All are welcome.