Lisa Nelson-Haynes Talks “The Invitation”

March 20, 2015


Earlier this week, the Painted Bride partnered with 900AM WURD, to host a discussion with Cora Daniels and Dr. John Jackson, co-authors of Impolite Conversations on Race, Politics, Sex, Money, and Religion. This four-part discussion, The Invitation, is part of our Community Table series, focusing on timely issues which sometimes are only discussed in self-segregated situations. Here, Painted Bride Associate Director Lisa Nelson-Haynes reflects on part one.

The Invitation is my brain-child and was inspired by recent events in Ferguson, MO, with the shooting death of Michael Brown, and the choking death of Eric Gardner in New York, as well as the nationwide Black Lives Matter campaign. I’d become extremely frustrated by our inability to have open, honest conversations about the rampant racism in our communities. I’d engaged in a few discussions with folks via Facebook who had dissimilar views and wondered if we could move these conversations from a virtual space to a “real” safe space. I firmly believe, real change begins on the micro-level, when we begin to engage, honestly, with the people we interface with on a daily basis, but so many of our work environments have become segregated, I wondered could we encourage folks to reach outside of their comfort zones to share their insights without fear of being attacked or demonized.

I shared these views with Sara Lomax Reese, President and General Manager of WURD, and her management team and in true fashion, they immediately stepped up to the plate and we decided to kick-off the series with an intimate conversation with the co-authors of Impolite Conversations. Our hope was that from this discussion, we might learn real strategies in engaging in impolite/difficult conversations.

This first event exceeded my expectations. WURD’s listenership came out in force and some of our Bride supporters also attended the event. The event began with a live-broadcast of The Nick Taliaferro Show in the Bride’s café. After the broadcast, patrons moved into the theater for the discussion facilitated by Sara Lomax Reese. Cora Daniels and John Jackson readily shared deep and personal insights rarely discussed in mixed company. I was especially struck by Jackson’s assertion that oftentimes we have challenging conversations with people that are of no real consequence to us, when we should be making more of an effort to have these conversations with those we truly care about. I also really enjoyed the discussion about the role technology is having in mediating these conversations. Jackson has an essay in the book entitled, Is Twitter the new religion? Comparing social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to religions struck a chord with me. Sharing your daily interactions, whether it be love for Lupita’s Oscar look, or the triumphs of your children to the masses, we, as Jackson puts it, “vacillate, effortlessly, between idol worship and stargazing, on one hand, and solipsism/self-promotion on the other.”

After a robust Q&A, most of patrons continued the conversation in the Bride’s café, while enjoying light fare provided by Butter’s Soul Food To Go. Mt. Airy’s Big Blue Marble Bookstore sold all but two of the copies they bought for sale and a queue extended through the Bride’s lobby as patrons waited patiently to have their books signed and to speak with the authors. We also distributed a set of tips/take-aways to practice to ensure a more productive impolite conversation.

Tips & Take-Aways for More Productive Impolite Conversations:

  • Listening is more valuable than talking. Careful listening is your best asset.
  • Don’t try to win the argument, try to understand the other position.
  • Restate the other person’s point in as compelling a way as possible.
  • Watch your face (what kinds of nonverbal cues are you giving that might work against you).
  • Emotion is not the enemy of intellect, but they don’t do the same work in a conversation.
  • Honesty isn’t an excuse for rudeness or insensitivity.
  • It is almost never WHAT you say but HOW you are saying it. Think about your HOWs.

The next Invitation discussion is scheduled for Weds., April 29, 2015, 5:20pm – 7:00pm. The conversation with be an honest dialogue between Black men and White men and will be facilitated by Rev. Alyn Waller, Senior Pastor at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church and WURD’s Brother Shomari.