Dinner with strangers, a conversation about race relations

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

On the Sunday following one of Dallas’ most horrific nights — when a sniper killed five police officers following a Black Lives Matter rally — I attended a church service held inside the clubhouse at the The Vineyards apartment complex in the Forest Audelia sector of Dallas. Not a typical service (good, since I am not typically a church goer), the pastor, a young white woman, asked the members, a mix of black and white men, women and youths — people who rented apartments there alongside those who owned homes in Lakewood and Preston Hollow — to share their feelings about the weeks’ events.

Fear, anger, tears emerged once attendees started talking, and when it came time to offer up solutions to problems related to racial tension, it was a simple one that stuck with me: Interact with people who don’t look like you, who may not share your philosophies, religious denomination, socioeconomic status, skin color or native language. And when you do, don’t just talk, listen too. Sort of like we were doing that morning.

Dallas Dinner Table, an effort that began in the early 2000s to “encourage communication about race and ethnicity”, revolves around that very idea, with one added element: food.

“For some reason, when food is introduced and dialogue over food it seems to create a positive environment where people can be honest about their opinions and share their perspective,” chairperson Beverly Wright says in the below video. “It is not a debate, but a sharing of differences and celebrating differences.”

Between 2002-2009, more than 500 people participated in dinners hosted by volunteers and facilitators citywide.

After a hiatus, Dallas Dinner Table resumed in 2014, and registration to participate in 2017 is open. The first dinners will take place Monday, January 18, to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The goal is to improve Dallas as a community, Wright says. She explains the model in greater detail here:

You can register now, here. Deadline is this week.


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