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race relations podcast

Monuments and Marriage: The Most Personal Lessons About Race

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To find common ground on improving race relations, start with personal stories.

The need to find common ground for improving race relations has rarely been more urgent than it is today. In this episode, we share profound insights from an interracial couple and a young African-American scholar and poet.

Caroline Randall Williams wrote a widely-read opinion column for The New York Times that added fresh insight to the debate over Confederate monuments and how America remembers its past. As a Black southern woman with white ancestors, she brings a passionate first-person point of view.

We also share the deeply personal story of Errol Toulon, the first African-American Sheriff of Suffolk County, New York, and his wife Tina MacNicholl Toulon, a physician liaison and business development executive. She’s white. He’s Black. Tina tells us what she’s learned since their marriage in 2016 about racism, “driving while Black,” and other indignities that are often part of a Black person’s daily life.

This episode includes edited extracts from longer interviews that were first published in 2020.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 38: Monuments and Marriage – The Most Personal Lessons About Race

Caroline Randall Williams

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Harvard graduate Caroline Randall Williams is an award-winning poet, young adult novelist, and cookbook author as well as an activist, public intellectual, performance artist, and scholar. She joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in the Fall of 2019 as a Writer-in-Residence in Medicine, Health, and Society while she continues to work and speak to the places where art, business, and scholarship intersect, moving people closer to their best lives and corporations closer to their ideal identities.

She has spoken in twenty states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and West Virginia, in venues that range from as small as a classroom in a neighborhood school to as large as the Superdome mainstage during Essence Fest. To every speaking engagement, Caroline brings a fierce intelligence, disarming charm, a touch of glamour, and a depth of lived experience that belies her thirty-two years. She has taught in two of the poorest states in the union — Mississippi and West Virginia — and she has been educated at two of the richest universities on the globe — Harvard and Oxford.

Named by Southern Living as “One of the 50 People Changing the South,” the Cave Canem fellow has been published and featured in multiple journals, essay collections, and news outlets, including The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, CherryBombe, Garden and Gun, Essence and the New York Times.

Errol Toulon

On January 1, 2018, Errol D. Toulon, Jr., Ed.D., became Suffolk County, New York’s 67th Sheriff and the County’s first African-American to be elected to a non-judicial countywide office. As Suffolk’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, he works to serve and protect 1.5 million residents through innovative programs to reduce crime and recidivism, and the implementation of sound fiscal policies.

Sheriff Toulon launched the Sandy Hook Promise School Safety Initiative, which has taught more than 22,000 students how to recognize the signs of a peer in distress and report concerning information to a trusted adult. He has also made it a priority to get to the root causes of youthful delinquency and inter-generational crime. His work in this area includes launching the Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline Task Force; Choose Your Path for young adults; Choose to Thrive for incarcerated women; a Senior Citizen Program POD;  and the nation’s first jail-based Human Trafficking Initiative, which assesses all county inmates for signs of victimization. He has also expanded correctional rehabilitation programming aimed to reduce recidivism, and made significant improvements to the Sheriff’s Addiction Treatment Program, with programming offered to both pre-trial and sentenced individuals.

Sheriff Toulon has more than 30 years of criminal justice experience, centered upon corrections intelligence and combating gang violence. Prior to serving as Suffolk County Sheriff, he worked for the New York City Department of Correction. He received his Master’s degree in Business Administration and Doctorate in Educational Administration from Dowling College; an advanced certificate in Homeland Security Management from Long Island University; and attended leadership courses at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University.

Tina Toulon

Tina Toulon is an accomplished expert in sales, marketing, and relationship building. She founded and was President of The Catamount Group, successful marketing, and list brokerage agency serving numerous corporate clients which she sold to Eway Direct.

She has also held senior positions with Epsilon Data Solutions and LSC Digital managing key client campaigns. Currently, she works with New York Cancer & Blood Specialists.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

daryl davis & Ryan Lo'Ree

How to Take Direct Action Against Hate

 

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What motivates people to leave hate groups? Hear from a race reconciliator and a former white supremacist.

What steps are needed to cause people to leave white supremacists and other hate groups of their own volition? In this deeply personal podcast episode, we explore the tactics and commitment needed to be successful in this work.

Daryl Davis, an award-winning Black musician, race reconciliator, and renowned lecturer, has used the power of human connection to convince hundreds of people to leave white supremacist groups. His fellow guest, Ryan Lo’Ree, a former white supremacist, is now an interventionist working to deradicalize people who have been lured into right and left-wing extremism.

These two men, who came from very different backgrounds and belief systems, discuss their life experiences, lessons learned in their work, and what motivates them to convince people to change their convictions.

Watch the recording of the Common Ground webinar with Daryl and Ryan: “Turning Racism and Extremism into Hope and Healing.”

Listen to our 2020 podcast with Daryl: “KKKrossing the Divide – A Black Man Talks With White Supremacists.”

Read Nicholas Kristof’s profile of Daryl in The New York Times— “How Can You Hate Me If You Don’t Even Know Me?”

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 34: How to Take Direct Action Against Hate

Daryl Davis

Award-winning musician Daryl Davis earned a degree in Jazz and tours nationally and internationally with The Daryl Davis Band. He is also the first Black author to interview KKK leaders and members, detailed in his book, Klan-Destine Relationships. Today, Davis owns numerous Klan robes and hoods, given to him by active members who renounced their racist ideology after meeting him. As a race reconciliator and lecturer, he has received numerous awards and is often sought out by news outlets as a consultant on race relations and white supremacy.

Ryan Lo’Ree

Ryan Lo’Ree, Light Upon Light Interventionist and Program Specialist, was once a right-wing extremist with the Rollingwood Skins, a Michigan-based offshoot of the largest Nazi movement in the United States. To finance these efforts, Ryan found himself in trouble with the law. After Ryan’s incarceration, he went through a process of transformation and healing centered around trauma associated with sexual, physical, and mental abuse he endured from male family members. Ryan has helped to pull dozens of former extremists out of hate groups in Michigan.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

Common Ground Committee Hosts Panel With Black Race Reconciliator and Former White Supremacist

Daryl Davis and Ryan Lo’Ree will discuss how to reduce tensions in a conversation moderated by NYT columnist David Brooks

Wilton, CT, May 27, 2021- Common Ground Committee (CGC), a nonpartisan, citizen-led nonprofit dedicated to reducing polarization, announced their upcoming, free event that answers the question: “What does it take to combat hate?” Daryl Davis, an award-winning Black musician, race reconciliator and renowned lecturer, has used the power of human connection to convince hundreds of people to leave white supremacist groups. He is joined by Ryan Lo’Ree, a former white supremacist, now working to deradicalize people who have been lured into extremism and white supremacy. Their conversation will be moderated by NYT columnist David Brooks.

“Daryl and Ryan embody Common Ground Committee’s values, by bringing people together through positive conversations and mutual understanding. We are so pleased that they are joining David and CGC for this conversation,” said Bruce Bond, co-founder and CEO of Common Ground Committee. “Our podcast with Daryl last year remains one of our most sought-out of our ‘Let’s Find Common Ground’ series. At a time where division is at an all-time high, in the midst of national racial strife, we are grateful that they are willing to share their expertise, explain strategies that work to combat hate and show us how we can all play a part.”

This virtual panel discussion is presented in partnership with the Bridge Alliance and will kick off the National Week of Conversation 2021.

“We could not be more excited to partner with the Common Ground Committee to host this crucial conversation and kick off the National Week of Conversation,” said Debilyn Molineaux, president and CEO of the Bridge Alliance. “Now more than ever, it’s important to combat the division plaguing our country. Having open conversations is one of the most effective ways to do so. We look forward to hearing from Daryl and Ryan who showcase how conversations can heal divides and how we can learn to listen to each other.”

To attend this free event, please sign up online here.

For interview requests, please contact Emily Cooper at ecooper@momentum-cg.com or 212-671-2086.

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About Common Ground Committee

Common Ground Committee (CGC) (commongroundcommittee.org) is a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization that inspires action on polarizing issues by bringing prominent leaders with opposing views together in public forums to find common ground. Since its founding in 2009, CGC has held 14 forums featuring panelists who have reached over 200 points of consensus. Panelists have included such notables as David Petraeus, Susan Rice, John Kerry, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele, Donna Brazile and Larry Kudlow, exploring issues ranging from race and income inequality to foreign policy. CGC is also responsible for the “Let’s Find Common Ground” podcast and the Common Ground Scorecard, which scores politicians and candidates for public office on their likelihood to find common ground with the opposite party. Free of political agenda and financial influence, CGC has a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.

About Bridge Alliance

The Bridge Alliance is a coalition of over 90 organizations dedicated to U.S. revitalization. With each organization focusing on a different sector of the movement, our members represent a combined three million supporters in the burgeoning field of civic reform and civil discourse. In addition, more than one billion dollars has been invested towards improving government effectiveness nationwide. We act as a hub of information and connectivity for over 90 civic action organizations. We provide the infrastructure for our members to expand individually, collaborate on shared goals, and inform others that are invested in democracy revitalization. This generates a collective impact greater than any one group could make alone.

 

About National Conversation Project

National Week of Conversation 2021 (June 14-20), the fourth annual, is powered by the #ListenFirst Coalition (listenfirstcoalition.org) of 300+ organizations and invites Americans of all stripes to listen, extend grace, and discover common interests. Another courageous step following America Talks, we hope you’ll join this hopeful mission to defeat toxic polarization and heal America by transforming division and contempt into connection and understanding.

 

 

 

The Case for Black Lives Matter: Hawk Newsome

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As the Black Lives Matter movement grows, are there opportunities for common ground and solutions?

“All lives will matter when Black lives matter,” says our guest, Hawk Newsome, in this passionate, challenging, and fascinating podcast episode.

The co-founder and Chair of Black Lives Matter Greater New York answers the skeptics and makes the case for a movement that has grown in scale and significance since widespread protests erupted last summer after the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

A devout Christian who has spent much of his life campaigning for racial and social justice, Hawk Newsome, discusses his views on love versus violence, systemic racism, and how he reached out to Trump supporters during a tense rally in Washington in 2017. The conversation transcends the simple designations of left and right and seeks to find meaningful solutions that respond to the realities faced by people and communities. This conversation is part of our podcast series that builds on the case for finding common ground.

Read more about Hawk Newsome and how he spends his weekends in this New York Times article.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 24-The-Case-for-Black-Lives-Matter-Hawk-Newsome

Hawk Newsome

Hawk Newsome is a former candidate for New York City Council, a cast member on Cop Watch America on BET, and a political activist working at the forefront of the New Civil Rights Movement who has dedicated his adult life to the betterment of his community and our nation as a whole. Mr. Newsome previously served as Special Projects Coordinator at the Bronx County Office of the District Attorney, partnering with tenants’ associations and social service organizations throughout the Bronx. He is co-founder and Chairperson of Black Lives Matter Greater New York.

Want to Help Heal Racial Inequity? Start With These 5 Questions

Our series of monthly actions invite Common Grounders to bring light, not heat, to the work of leading progress on America’s most pressing issues. This month: reach out to a local leader to ask how their organization is addressing racial justice and equity – and how you can help.

July 2020 Action: Talk to a Local Leader About Race & Equity

As protests for racial justice and equity continue across the nation, how is our own community leading change? To move beyond the status quo, citizens need to be at the forefront of calling for progress. And to become an effective force for transformation in our own neighborhoods, the first step is listening to understand.

This month, reach out to ask one local leader how their organization is taking action to address racism in this moment of crisis and opportunity.

5 questions to spur action & gain insight

Asking local leaders what they are doing to address racism demonstrates a desire for action in the the community, while giving you valuable insights on how to serve as a more effective advocate. Here are five questions to help start the conversation:

  1. What is your organization’s stance on racial justice and equity, and the current protests?
  2. How has this been communicated to the public and discussed with your team?
  3. How is your organization taking steps to support people of color in our community during this difficult time?
  4. How are people of color represented in leadership roles at your organization?
  5. What action can I take to help your organization move this issue forward?

Making connections to influence change

Race is entwined through all aspects of our society. And leaders across all sectors can play a role in influencing change – from educating and legislating, to innovating and networking.

Consider reaching out to a leader in a sector where you can offer valuable insights, or where you feel passionate about the opportunity to make progress. Leaders who are positioned to influence change can include:

  • Chief of Police
  • Mayor or Town Supervisor
  • State representative
  • School or university administrator  
  • Local business leader
  • Pastor or faith leader

Reaching out to board chairs and board members can help ensure your communication is considered at an organizational level.

And, don’t forget the critical piece of asking for the opportunity to connect and talk personally about your inquiry. One-on-one conversation is the best path to find common ground and opportunities to take action. Be prepared to learn about other perspectives and experiences, and to ask questions to clarify rather than assuming you know the other person’s intentions.

No matter who you are or where you live, your voice and participation is vital to help heal racial tension and inequities. Let’s start by reaching out – and listening to understand – in our own communities.

Black Lives Matter: 5 Tips For Holding Better Conversations on Racial Justice

Our series of monthly actions invite Common Grounders to bring light, not heat, to the work of leading progress on America’s most pressing issues. This month: commit to holding a conversation on the importance of making progress toward racial justice.

June 2020 Action: Hold a Conversation on Racial Justice

In this watershed moment for modern civil rights, support for the Black Lives Matter movement has reached new levels and opened up an opportunity for lasting change. Achieving such change will require many engaged citizens – especially white allies – to boldly acknowledge the need for progress, and bring light not heat to the national exploration of a common path forward.

This month, commit to taking action by holding at least one conversation about racial justice with a friend, neighbor or family member. Much of the work of holding a productive discussion happens before we start talking. Here are five quick tips to help prepare you for a better conversation.

1.) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Our country’s painful history of racial injustice and varying world views we all bring to the table can make conversations on race emotionally fraught. Fear of “saying something wrong” also dissuades many from engaging in conversations on race. Be prepared for moments of discomfort, and stay committed to the importance of continuing to talk about the issues.

2.) Prepare by doing your own work.

We all bring personal experiences and opinions to conversations on race. Take some time to reflect and identify your own biases, and how your assumptions have been shaped by education and personal experiences. Explore, too, how these experiences may vary for people of color. Get started with the Race and Ethnicity series from our partner, Living Room Conversations.

3.) Reframe your end goal.

One essential key to holding a more productive conversation? Let go of the end goal of winning an argument. Instead, focus on making progress toward solutions. Seek areas of common ground using a “let’s work it out” attitude.

4.) Listen to understand.

Each person brings unique concerns, hopes and fears to conversations on race. Some may fear the police; others may fear defunding the police. Some may be focused on social justice; others on law and order. Active listening to understand motivations and intentions – and to show that you hear and acknowledge those concerns – is the first step to create an opportunity for solutions to be considered.

5.) Seek common ground, but don’t compromise principles.

Be prepared to be flexible in your conversations and work to find an approach that addresses the concerns of all parties. But don’t feel obligated to go along with something that violates your principles. Finding common ground isn’t about “being nice” or losing values. It’s about holding conversations that lead to understanding.

Individual Action is Needed to Improve Race Relations in America. I Should Know.

In this piece written for Newsweek, Common Ground Committee panelist and podcast guest Dr. Brian Williams talks about why he has committed to stepping out of his comfort zone to talk about race, and the first step we all must take to help heal racial injustices.


by Brian Williams, M.D.

In numb silence, I watched footage of protests in Minneapolis escalating to violence. Another Black man dead, another cop on video, and a city ablaze. Mentally replaying a prior tragedy, I was worried because I have a perspective on the death of George Floyd unlike anyone else. 

Just four years ago, there were nationwide protests against police brutality after the death of Philandro Castile, less than six miles from where Mr. Floyd was killed. The protest in Dallas, TX, on July 7, 2016 turned deadly. I am the trauma surgeon who cared for seven of the twelve ambushed police officers. It was the only time in my career I crumbled to the floor crying about strangers I could not save. The shooter was Black. I am Black. His targets, my patients, were cops. 

At a press conference days later, my public display of empathy for the murdered officers struck a nerve. Some called me a traitor to my race. A retired police chief said I should not be allowed to treat white people. Both saw the same video clip but came to disparate conclusions about my role as a Black man in that tragedy. 

Over the next year I struggled with that role. I wanted to regain a sense of normalcy. At the same time I felt I could do more. One opportunity came when the Mayor of Dallas appointed me to become Chair of the Citizens Police Review Board.

Education Brings Impact

As Chair of the Board, I learned about 21st Century Policing and community outreach. About police procedures and civil rights. About politics and public safety. And how some communities celebrated the police as protectors while others, a few miles away, reviled them as killers. But my most important lesson was about people – those who wore the uniform and those who did not. 

A turning point for me came when I spoke at a Common Ground Committee event about race, violence and medicine. I didn’t go in to change people’s minds, just to share my experience and hopefully inspire some to action. I remember sitting down in that intimate setting, in a room full of attentive white people with eyes locked on me, wondering how it would go. I received very thoughtful questions. Some people came up to me after the event, and even had tears in their eyes. I realized I could have an impact. 

In order to have impact, I chose to step out of my zone of comfort and safety to speak out. I focus on my singular goal: eliminating systemic racism and its deadly consequences. It is not a zero-sum game. It is about service to humanity. In order to move forward, we need to understand each other. That requires the courage to share our experiences, biases, and expectations. 

As cities enter another week of protests, I again field questions. I understand the anger and frustration because it dwells within me, continually bubbling to the surface. So I answer, without reservation, that I know exactly how they feel. Yet I remain hopeful that we may be at the tipping point I expected in 1991, when Rodney King was beaten by police.

The collective outcry of individual Americans makes the response this time feel different. Across the board, from the left and the right, individuals condemn the actions of the police officers who caused George Floyd’s death. President Trump said “it was a terrible thing. It should never have happened”, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described it as “a murder right before our eyes”. Chiefs of police across the country, from Minneapolis to Honolulu, have explicitly said that this was wrong and should not have happened. All four officers involved have now been arrested and charged.

Finding Common Ground

But there also needs to be a change at the cultural level, and for that to happen individuals must listen to others’ experiences. I’m the only Black person in my neighborhood, so if I’m going to walk in my neighborhood I always take my dog, a golden doodle. I’m intentional about this. I assume a Black man walking a dog is less threatening than a Black man walking alone.

In We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For, Peter Levine demonstrated that 3.5% of a population must take action to achieve social change. In America, that means between 11 and 12 million of us must act. Listening is not enough. We need action.

Once we understand the experiences of those who are not like us, we must work to build a culture in which all police officers do what an officer did in Seattle on May 30th: force other officers to stop violent arrest tactics, like putting their knee on a person’s neck. Likewise, while anger is understandable, many rightfully angry protesters still stood in the way of violence and looting, like the young men in this viral TikTok video.

Start by listening, introspection, and education to understand your biases about race. Then take action. Even small acts can have tremendous impact. Extraordinary times require action from ordinary people. Anyone can make a difference, and that person can be you.

Dr. Brian Williams is the immediate past-Chair of the City of Dallas Citizens Police Review Board and an Associate Professor of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at the University of Chicago.

 

– This article was published in Newsweek on June 15, 2020.