Sunday, April 27, 2008

Conversation Recap for April 27, 2008

Today we are going to look at the values and mission statements, hear a story from Keith, and begin talking about Ron Suskind’s book, A Hope in the Unseen.

We heard Keith James’ story. The ensuing discussion touched on the gift of resourceful parents and neighbors. We also talked about developing alternatives to the standard model of dealing with juvenile justice. Given the lack of public pressure on the legislature to develop anything else, programs have to be added on that work with the situations of kids poorly served. It turns out that infusing cultural competencies into an administrative system require leadership that has diverse perspectives—and this means not just hiring, for example, people of color, but also who understand and work to cultivate diverse perspectives. To get the state legislature to make changes will require a lot more public pressure.

The discussion turned to a comparison between Trinidad and US police system—the US was much later in applying the idea of community policing, and some of this may have been related to the comparatively late development of US police openness to women and diversity in leadership.

This brought up some of the ways that people developed understandings of colonialism in the period after WWII up to, say, 1970. For example, there was Mighty Sparrow’s song, Jean and Dinah, as a social protest art form. Some parts of the song were initially written as a store jingle, but it was adapted as commentary on the consequences of having a US military base on Trinidad. Some of its lyrics were quoted (this quotation lifted off of Wickipedia):

Jean and Dinah, Rosita and Clemontina
Round de corner posin'
Bet your life is something dey sellin'
But when you catch them broken [="broke"] you could get dem all for nuttin'
Doh make no row
De Yankee gone and Sparrow take over now

The discussion turned to a comparison of politics and social dynamics in Trinidad and in the US. We will no doubt be returning to this in the future. Several key figures in the development of our contemporary

We touched on Ron Suskind’s book, A Hope in the Unseen. We want to discuss it over the next three weeks. For those who may need to deal with a shortened version of the book, a file is available that is a collection of Suskind stories in newspapers that told parts of the story.

We turned to discuss the values and mission document, and thanked Callista for her work on it. We made some small changes, and discussed at some length the leadership issues, page 6. We characterized the document as “our social contract,” and as “made of clay, that we will periodically water.” It is a grounding for discussions of where we might go in the future. We might need an opening paragraph about what this document represents.
Something like this?

This document is the product of many discussions, and is offered in the spirit of a social contract that describes what we are and how we operate. The Conversation is an organic and fluid entity, and this document will evolve along with it. We will refer to it in discussions of where we might go in the future.

A suggestion to add something to the document was discussed and illustrated the ways it can serve as a grounding for discussions. Several people referred to the overall purposes of The Conversation, and at the same time how complicated are the connections among marginalized groups and the society. We also noted that one way of acknowledging our acceptance of the document, when that does happen, is to go around the room and each read part of the introduction describing our values.