Host A Community Conversation
Pathways to Empathy and Compassion
Community conversations can provide a pathway to greater understanding of the lives of its members as well as the forces that affect the quality of life within communities. These conversations can take the form of small-group discussions as well as panel discussions (live or on Zoom) with members of the community who can share unique perspectives. To inspire you for how you can bring this to your community, a couple of examples follow.
In the midst of ongoing political debates over immigration, the human dimension is often lost. Immigrant stories are rarely seen or heard. Yet their first-person stories shed light on the consequences of prejudice and xenophobia.
The Community Conversation held in Santa Fe New Mexico in 2016 was one element of the Stitching our Stories program. At the core of the program was an exhibit of photographic images of Esther Krinitz’s artwork, displayed alongside story cloths created by immigrants living in Santa Fe, most from Latin America, telling of their journeys to the United States.
Although very different on the surface, their stories are in fact closely linked by several universal elements that together speak to the human condition. Love of family, separation from loved ones, the search for safety and survival, the persistent longing for home—all these permeate both Esther’s story and those of present-day immigrants.
To create this personal connection, immigrants and local residents came together in small groups to get to know one another--face-to-face, person-to-person—by sharing their stories. Using discussion prompts based on the card game, “More Than One Story,” such as “What accomplishment are you most proud of?,” people came to appreciate how their similarities overshadowed their differences. Immigrants remarked on the atmosphere of inclusion and how they felt truly welcomed for the first time. Others pledged to continue the dialogue, recognizing how vital it is to overcome our trepidation towards the “Other” and create true community.
Stitching Our Stories: Santa Fe
Connecting Immigrant and Local Communities Through Story Cloths and Conversations
Beyond the Politics of Hate:
Pathways to Compassion and Empathy
A Panel Conversation
In February 2019, in conjunction with the opening of The Dream of One Loving Human Family, at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Art and Remembrance produced a panel conversation that brought together a human rights lawyer/author, an artist activist, and a refugee advocate in a reflective conversation, linking Esther’s Holocaust story with the climate of fear, Othering and racism in the US and around the world that continues today. Through their discussion and interaction with the audience, the audience felt a sense of renewed commitment to take action and speak out in support of their fellow community members.
Panelists (L-R): Judy Tallwing, Native American artist whose work is included in the "Dream" exhibit at AVAM, Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS, Arjun Singh Sethi, human rights lawyer, community activist, and author of American Hate: Survivors Speak Out, Cecile Lipworth, Moderator, feminist community activist, radio show host, and Art and Remembrance board member, at the podium, Bernice Steinhardt, President of Art and Remembrance.
Story Cloth Workshop Participant