One of the oldest African-American churches in Denver has invited church members and community members to participate in conversations about race.
RAY SUAREZ, HOST:
We’re going to hear about a church in Denver that’s recently hosted some frank conversations about race. Shorter Community AME is one of the oldest African-American churches in the city. It was called First Colored Church when it opened in 1868. Colorado Public Radio’s Andrea Dukakis has this story as part of NPR’s look at the experiences of discrimination in America.
ANDREA DUKAKIS, BYLINE: The Rev. Timothy Tyler and his wife Nita Mosby Tyler say after the violence in Charlottesville, white and black Denverites needed an outlet. So they invited the community to what they’ve referred to as raw conversations on race. To set the scene, they like to point out that five members of their church are over 100 years old, people whose parents may have been slaves.
NITA MOSBY TYLER: It is quite possible that you are sitting in the midst of people that are just a generation or so away from slavery. And I think we have to remember that when we start to talk about historical trauma. We’re not talking about necessarily four generations ago, in some cases, it’s just one.
DUKAKIS: Since the reverend and his wife, who specializes in diversity training, opened their doors to these gatherings, the pews have been packed. At the most recent meeting, the conversation wasn’t always comfortable or polite.
VICKI DILLARD CROWE: If you’re in a domestic violence situation by a man that’s been beating you for four years – and we’ve been beaten, killed for 400-plus years – we would not advocate that person staying in that relationship.
DUKAKIS: Vicki Dillard Crowe said, at this point, she wasn’t ready for a reconciliation.
DILLARD CROWE: There needs to be a period of separation. The emphasis has to be – I’m more concerned about those that you’re killing than I am about your feelings today.
DUKAKIS: That comment hung in the air. And most of the audience talked about the need for less separation between the races, not more. Rick Bailey of Denver says he’s been too content to sit back and enjoy the privileges that come with being a white man. He says the past year – and especially Charlottesville and its aftermath – shook him out of complacency.
RICK BAILEY: I didn’t realize how deeply embedded racism is – and to the point of feeling sick in my soul that things were not the way, in our country, that I thought they were.
DUKAKIS: Bailey says he wants to do more to fight racism. And Nita Mosby Tyler says whites need to do more. She says she has heard many whites say they want to fight racism. But they aren’t willing to step in and lead the fight.
SOURCE: All Things Considered / NPR