MANKATO — The Write on Race community journaling initiative entered its second year Monday with a group session in the same vein as those held in year one of the project, but with a notable addition added on top of it.
The reflective, small group discussions on race resumed, supplemented by excerpt readings and a panel discussion with contributing writers from an anthology exploring race through the eyes of Minnesotan people of color.
The readings of Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, Diane Wilson and David Lawrence Grant from their chapters in “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota” expanded on the prompt topics the local journalers in the program have been writing about. Their presence was the first example of what will be regularly scheduled supplemental programming in year two of Write on Race.
Stacy Wells, an organizer of the Greater Mankato Diversity Council project, said the expanded offering and future ones like it are meant to give Write on Race participants even more ways to engage in current events. The book came out in 2016, while future events can be tailored around even more recent happenings.
“There’s so much happening in real time, so it’s to take advantage of that,” she said.
Wells and fellow organizers also hope the events can help draw in people who haven’t yet gotten involved to the project.
“Maybe they haven’t been participating actively in the initiative so far,” she said. “This gives them some opportunity to come in and see what it’s about.”
These new events, as well as future film screenings and other ideas in the works, are billed as “live prompt topics.” They’re meant to be extensions of the twice-monthly email prompt topics journalers are asked to respond to, the latest being about race and income.
As diversity council Executive Director Bukata Hayes put it to the group Monday, “we’re going to make more times for us to see each other.”
Participants said they were intrigued to see the additional events start up in year two.
“There’s such a foundation built that now to expand the conversation is very powerful,” said Diane Dobitz, a journaler from the beginning.
She and others in the program who knew the book well were particularly excited to see the contributors come to Mankato. The three writers, who wrote from Native American, South American, and African-American perspectives on Minnesotan culture, were among 16 who wrote chapters for the book.
Their readings ranged in focus from the problematic undertones of “Minnesota nice” to struggling to fit in at a school as a newcomer to the United States with limited English-speaking skills. Grant read about his experience being falsely identified as a robbery suspect by Minneapolis police — an incident in which he had a cocked gun put to his head.
After taking questions, the panelists thanked those in attendance for actively pursuing difficult conversations. They encouraged the crowd to keep it up.
“I hope the words we have to share with you tonight helps to continue the momentum,” Grant said.
The next group gathering for the Write on Race project will be on Feb. 5, 2018, but the diversity council plans to announce other live prompt topics in the months leading up to then.