Conversations about race are never easy. But last week’s murder of Jayland Walker and the racially-motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May, are just a few examples of why they are absolutely necessary right now. It was the 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers that inspired Kansas City activist Sheryl Ferguson to initiate an open forum for the residents of her city to clear the air.
From the police treatment of Black people to whether or not white women should get braids, no question is off-limits at the July 23 event that is being marketed as “an event diving into everything you ever wanted to know about race and culture but could not ask.” Panel discussions are planned with diverse participants to help get the conversation started. And Ferguson, an organizer with the social justice group, It’s Time 4 Justice, is intentional about making those who attend the event feel like they can ask anything without the fear of being called out or judged. “While the program is going on, we will not have whatever question you ask cause you to have fear that you said something too racist,” Ferguson said.
Event participants will not be photographed unless they give their consent. They will also have the option to ask their questions anonymously if they don’t feel comfortable speaking out in front of the larger group.
Kansas City was one of several cities around the country that saw violence erupt after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. And over 50 years later, the headlines are still filled with violence. Ferguson hopes her event will foster an open dialogue and help remove some of the stereotypes that exist. “Truthfully, we’re really all one race, and that’s human,” she says.