The death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer placed America at a turning point. It forced the nation to confront the prevalence of societal racism and the need for an ongoing conversation about how to make things better.
Learning how to constructively have those conversations was the focus of “Courageous Conversation: The Art of Listening, Mercy and Change,” the April event in NYSUT’s ongoing Many Threads, One Fabric social justice series.
J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary treasurer, leads the series and NYSUT President Andy Pallotta thanked him for his efforts. “This is bold, powerful work at a difficult time,” he said. “This is work you were born to do.”
MANY THREADS, ONE FABRIC
'Courageous Conversation'' with Leven "Chuck" Wilson
After the Derek Chauvin trial and the racial inequalities exposed by COVID-19, “now more than ever, we need to talk about the deep-seated racial tensions within our society,” said Abraham in welcoming remarks. “Let’s learn how to move forward and have courageous conversations.”
Leven “Chuck” Wilson, a counseling professional with a range of experience in areas including diversity, inclusion and community engagement, was the featured speaker. The event helped participants recognize racial disparities in their communities and workplaces and learn how to overcome attitudinal and structural barriers to make change. A key focus was learning to become a better listener, understanding the role of mercy, compassion and forgiveness and learning to de-escalate anger, frustration and pain.
“Courageous conversations must start with being calm, having respect and understanding that we’re all different,” said Wilson noting that conflict is counterproductive. They must also start with a metaphorical blank canvas — something that can’t happen without extending mercy and forgiveness.
“I don’t know a person alive who hasn’t said or done the wrong thing, whether intentional or not,” he said. “Mercy is the twin to forgiveness, allowing us to connect and identify challenges and learn how to address concerns.
“Sometimes truth is not friendly, sometimes it punches,” said Wilson. “But dealing with the truth is the foundation of having a courageous conversation.”
Wilson is the founder of the Renew Group, an organization that strengthens families and improves communities. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in social work and is a partner with the AFT’s Teacher Diversity Program.
The conversation continues
Wilson will host three additional small-group forums on this topic in May; register online for the session that works best for your schedule..
To learn more about the NYSUT Many Threads series, visit nysut.org/manythreads.