Community Forum on Race Relations A Success
St. John's Baptist Church, in collaboration with SCI, held the first Community Forum on Race Relations this past Friday, October 28. There was great turnout from the Woburn community, who engaged in an honest and candid conversation with the discussion panel, consisting of five community leaders and one Woburn Memorial High School (WMHS) student. Among the panel were Mayor Scott Galvin, St. John's Rev. Dr. Neal Pearson, Woburn United Methodist Church's Rev. Dr. Yoo-Yun Cho-Chang, Police Chief Tom Ferullo, Superintendent of School's Mark Donovan, and WMHS sophomore student, Francis Kitiibwa. The forum was moderated by SCI's David Crowley, alongside Ron Walker.
As the first in what we hope to be a series of related forums, it was a great success for not only SCI and St. John's Baptist Church, but for the community of Woburn as a whole. At the end of the forum, Rev. Dr. Neal Pearson thanked the audience members and panelists, "Let's not make this one night only. Let's come up with a plan to make this two nights, three nights, however long it takes."
The format of the forum was a panel discussion, punctuated by audience questions and comments, as well as elaboration by the moderators. The questions asked to the panel were not discussed beforehand, allowing for genuine and candid answers in real time. Examples of some of the questions asked include, "What were some of your earliest experiences with race as an individual?", "What is your honest opinion of racial relations in Woburn?", and "What can you do to confront racial inequity and inequality from your present role or position?"
The goal of the forum was to not only start an initial conversation about race relations in Woburn, but also to provide a safe space where community members could feel comfortable raising questions, issues, or concerns that they might have. With no judgment from the other participants of the forum, audience members were able to do just that. Topics that came up for future forums include restorative justice and white privilege, among others. As Rev. Dr. Yoo-Yun Cho-Chang remarked, "I believe in the power of conversation. A lot of very important movements begin with conversation. I don't think we can bring change if we just work alone."
The race relations forum is the latest in a series of projects that SCI has helped facilitate in Woburn that seek to bring people of diverse backgrounds together. Most recently, SCI coordianted the #WoburnUnites vigil this summer in response to violent incidents around the country: http://sciwoburn.org/content/woburn-unites-vigil. SCI has previously collaborated with St. John's to implement a Civil Rights Forum, whereby young people learned about the Civil Rights movement by engaging with activitists who had participated in the movement. SCI also works with the YMCA International Learning Center on the annual WorldFest event.