Sunday, February 08, 2009

Conversation Recap for January 25, 2009

We began with a check-in. We welcomed a new participant.

Today we heard Tina’s story.

In the discussion we touched on the Courage and Renewal workshops, and the ways they encourage people to connect their self-understandings with their vocations, and their avocations. Phrases used in the workshop contain short-hand references to stories and ideas shared there. The use of a new vocabulary to make sense of one’s life can allow a person to quickly combine several ideas, to emphasize connections between the different pieces of a life.

Another theme that emerged was the shifts in diversity that often accompany transitions in life, such as moving to another state because of a job or education. For example, going from Foss High School to an all-white small-town Southwest atmosphere can be a shock. It also has consequences for what happens to our kids.

We started a discussion of the MLK event.

As a prelude, we listened to the new Seal cover of the song, “A change is gonna come,” title track on his new CD.

And, we watched the January 24 weekly youtube talk by President Obama (see it here). It is a short overview of the policies he intends to pursue during his term. In it he mentioned a website his people have put together.

We discussed some ideas referred to in the talk. People have a lot of hopes about what can be done. One clear point emerged—there is a lot of work to be done, and much of the work has to happen in states and in local communities. High presidential approval ratings do not by themselves produce policy changes. Comments that emphasized the hopes also mentioned the work to be done.

One person noted his limited comments on the health care system, and said that it seems like he is organizing to do something larger. People might be interested in an excellent article on the topic in The New Yorker.

Several participants noted the importance of making opportunities, of a new type, for younger people. For example, some plans for shifting us to different energy sources include creation of many new jobs—who will be trained for them, who will fill them?

We then entered the MLK discussion. One participant reported comments from the Maiselle Bridges family. This was very important to them, and to us.

Several participants noted surprise at the size of the Sons of Thunder group—there was a miscommunication there, and several people here expected five to show up. Another person commented that sometimes choir directors ask members to participate and guess at how many will be able to and that may be where the confusion was--they all came! Several commented on how much we enjoyed their set.

For the Future, it is a good idea to have performance acts submit a stage diagram with details of their setup, including microphone placement etc. It is also a sign of the importance of rehearsals—many people were not informed of what was going on at which rehearsal activity. Some participants discussed the wisdom of clearly designating some of these responsibilities. If we don’t do that, then when things come up they just get piled on the one or two people that are handling organization details.

Accolades to Steve Philbrook, the sound man, who adapted.

There was apparently little cooperation among the local mainstream media, although there was a notification in one of the Seattle papers in their list of MLK events, and one participant talked to a couple of people who came from Seattle just for the event. The News Tribune ran a January 19 story, a day late, about MLK celebrations in the areas. There was a story in the News Tribune, as well as one of their photo slideshows available online. See the photos here. To see the TNT story, go here. There was some speculation that the story of the little boy who was killed at the monster truck event might have preempted an earlier commitment to run a story prior to the MLK event.

We also discussed several issues connected to the public face of the event—is it religious news, is it entertainment news, is it part of the arts—How should we promote it? We have limited control over the TNT’s placement.

The estimate of attendance: something like 250 to 275, although some felt there must have been more.

Many participants mentioned the high quality of the signers’ work.

A couple of the honorees asked if they could say something, and asked our Host for the microphone. Though there had been no requirement to do so, Eve chose to allow them to speak.

We discussed the tables in the basement. There wasn’t much attendance. One suggestion: have them upstairs in the anteroom at people exit.

Other very positive accolades were shared over the introduction for Dexter, done by Callista; by Steve & Kristi’s set; by Eve’s work as host; for the co-chairs of the planning effort, Callista and Mona; for Rosalind’s dramatic piece that was part of the program.

There was some discussion of what the event actually is. It is entertainment, in several senses. It is ritual. It is church. It is part of what the Conversation does. One participant used the metaphor of a full meal being served to the community. Another way to see it is by examining the many facets of the Civil Rights Movement—some of it was pulpit, some of it was SNCC, some of it was Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, etc. It wasn’t one thing, beyond the unifying core of social justice.

Perhaps the news media needs a regular section on social justice.

If the church was packed, the dynamic for many things would be different. How to do that? One way to think about it—what are our communities, and how can we each link them to the MLK event next year? Perhaps we all have opportunities to do this. Another idea is to assign sections to members of the Conversation—have each sign up for finding 20 audience members, something like that. One participant asked people to come, and about 80% of the invited folks showed up.

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