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Moorestown residents host ‘Conversation on Culture’

A look inside MooreUnity’s talks about race relations.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: The Perkins Center for the Arts in Collingswood hosted the program “Conversation on Culture” on Jan. 18.

Moorestown residents Tamara Johns and Karen Reiner led an interactive discussion at the Perkins Center for the Arts in Collingswood on Jan. 18, the National Day of Racial Healing.

“Conversation on Culture” was a two-part preview of MooreUnity’s “Our Stories – Brave Conversations on Race.” That program will resume next month.

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“Our Stories” runs for six weeks and was created in the summer of 2020 by North Carolina residents Matthew Kane and Katie Gailes. Cohorts consist of 10 people, five of color and five Caucasian, who meet once a week.

“The idea is to provide a safe space where people can share both the things that they have experienced that are painful and also maybe some things that they don’t understand that they would like to ask questions about,” Johns explained.

Last spring, Johns and Reiner participated in two cohorts of ‘Our Stories’ and facilitated two in the fall.

“For me as a white person, what was so eye-opening was the stories of everyday things that people shared,” Reiner noted. 

“I often think about the very blatant racist things – the most horrible things that we all can agree are wrong – and it’s all the little micro-inequities that also just add up all day long and impact peoples’ lives,” she added.

Johns and Reiner cited how each session of the program is a building block.

“We found that both groups, in the fall, wanted to stay connected with each other,” Johns recalled. “And we’re coming up with ways that we could take a deeper dive.”

Reiner said that at the end of each meeting, she and Johns ask everyone to offer one word describing how they’re feeling.

“One of the ones that stuck with me was somebody (who) said that she felt hydrated,” Reiner noted. “She said, ‘I feel like when I joined the call, I was a shriveled up, dried, ignored plant, and you people came along and watered me.’”

“Conversation on Culture” first took place on Jan. 13 at the Perkins center in Moorestown.

“What people liked about it – well, what some people said to me – is that they really appreciated having the time and the space to ponder each question,” Johns noted.

Reiner explained how she learns from Johns.

“The casual planning of how we roll this out, I’m learning a lot of things that she considers in her life that I have never had to consider,” Reiner said.

Making a difference in the community is important to both Johns and Reiner.

“Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of an issue or an assignment or a problem,” Johns offered. “But really, just doing something small can have big ripple effects.”

For more information on how to join “Our Stories – Brave Conversations on Race,” visit https://ourstoriesonrace.org.

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