PEACE TALKS: Peaceful Race Relations: An African American Perspective (KUNM airdate: 2/28/03)
Martin Luther King said: "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
History is filled with examples of conflict between different races and this the first in a series of Peace Talks shows that will explore efforts to resolve that conflict from different racial perspectives. This time – the African American perspective. Our guests are three African Americans – each born and raised in different times and in different parts of New Mexico and the United States. They reflect on their greatest challenges and successes in resolving racial conflict throughout their lives. They also share specific steps that members of all races can take to make peace with each other. Our guests are Tonya Covington, Racial Justice Coordinator for the Middle Rio Grande YWCA, James Lewis, Chief Operating Officer for the City of Albuquerque, and Othiamba Umi, a student at the University of New Mexico.
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PEACEFUL RACE RELATIONS - PROGRAM EXCERPTS
James Lewis on prejudice: As the only African-American elected state-wide in the state of New Mexico (as State Treasurer), I had a chance to go to New York for a bond closing. We had some bankers to pick us up at the airport. My deputy state treasurer, David King, a white American was with me. They had a car to come pick us up and the bankers walked up to him assuming that he is Mr. Lewis, the treasurer, and walked right by me.
Tonya Covington on diversity training: What I find is that most people come into the training or the dialogue very hesitantly. They don’t come out the other side that way. Usually people find that there is such a relief of finally being able to talk about the elephant in the living room that we were supposed to pretend wasn’t there at all. The other thing…is that people find out that they have so much more in common than they did different. And they’re usually surprised. It’s a great comfort to people to find that they are far more able to talk to people from different cultures more easily than they thought they would be able to be.
Othiamba Umi on getting along: It’s hard to get past just skin color and stereotypes and that’s why we continue to have these issues. But you have to realize that we are all humans, that we are the human race and we all have (to have) love for each other and respect for each other and we have to continue to do that.
Tanya Covington: I’m very hopeful mainly because I feel like we live in a country where people have proven that they will change anything that they decide needs to be changed. And I’m hopeful that people will look at race relations in this country and know that there needs to be a change. I thinik all it would take is that beginning tomorrow that everyone decides they’re going to be conscious of prejudice everywhere it is, and not participate in it.
James Lewis: Either we are going to have to get along or we’ll perish like fools. I think we have to continue to work at it, it’s not going to be easy. But I think there have been some inroads made in employment…a lot of other opportunities have opened up for us but they have to continue to open up and we have to continue to work at it.
Resources: Both Tonya and James said while there are many sources for background and information on race relations available that the most valuable thing any one can do is interact with people from other cultures. “People actually sitting down and talking to each other, finding out what their values are, finding out what each believes, and finding out about each others’ life experiences,” says Tonya. “I would recommend that you attend some of the African-American churches," says James, "so you can get that feeling, get to know some people.”
VIDEO: "The Way Home." Sixty-four women share their experiences of oppression through the lens of race. Separated into eight ethnic councils, Indigenous, African- American, Arab, Asian, European-American, Jewish, Latina, and Multiracial, the women explore their stories of identity, oppression, and resistance.
BOOKS: "Race Matters," "The Cornel West Reader," and "Restoring Hope" by Cornel West. New Mexico Black History by Barbara Richardson "Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson" by George Jackson "Soul on Ice" by Eldridge Cleaver
Some Black History Websites Include:
Are you looking for an opportunity to discuss racism and other diversity issues in a small group format? Small discussion groups on diversity are forming in Albuquerque based on the "Trainings of the Mind in Diversity." The trainings were developed by Larry Yang, LCSW, a member of the Diversity Council of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, a Vipassana Buddhist community in Woodacre, CA. They are modeled after a set of trainings in ethical conduct developed by the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, and are published in part, in his book Friends on the Path: Living in Community. For more information about joining a discussion group in the Albuquerque area, contact Don Tarbutton,firstname.lastname@example.org;, 505-899-3291.
MORE ABOUT PEACE TALKS
Peace Talks is a series of public radio programs that investigates how people can make peace and pursue non-violent solutions to conflict - within themselves, their families and communities, and the world. In addition to the KUNM half-hour series, a national series is in development. Each episode of Peace Talks national series would be recorded before a live audience in a town hall format at venues across the United States and will feature a renown leader in peace studies or negotiation as well as a peacemaker chosen from the host community.
In these tumultuous times on the planet, the Peace Talks series intends to offer listeners around the globe a chance to learn useful skills to address the conflict in their own lives. Peace Talks will bring them in contact with some of the leading proponents of non-violent conflict resolution - individuals who have made the pursuit of peace their life's work.