This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
WEST GOSHEN — The incident in Ferguson, Missouri, brought to the forefront that there are still issues facing the country.
A positive that came out of it happened right here in West Chester when Pastor Wayne E. Croft of St. Paul’s Baptist Church decided to bring the community together for discussions on the topic.
“Pastor Croft thought it would be good to get us as a community together to talk about these issues to avoid having something like that happen in our community,” said Lisa Croft. “It was heavily attended and well received. As a result, Courageous Conversation came out of that, not only about explicit bias, but I personally wanted to highlight implicit bias.”
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The Courageous Conversation, held at West Chester University Saturday, spanned four hours to allow the community to speak up about the tough issues surrounding race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and more.
“We all know those are the things that subconsciously hinder us from entering to authentic relationships,” said Croft, chair of the Courageous Conversation. “What can we do to really bring about authentic relationships within diversity?”
Over 150 people pre-registered for the event, including West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, while more who showed up at the door were welcomed in as well.
“My uncle was Bayard Rustin, who was a Civil Rights leader, and I am, too,” said Maria Rustin, a resident in attendance. “I’m really involved with conversations about racism. We need more of this.”
The day was broken into workshop sessions, where those in attendance could choose where to go.
Workshops varied from #youlookdifferent and Gender Paradigm to Your DNA and Beyond the Color Line.
In total, eight workshops were optional while everyone was able to choose two for 45 minutes each.
“We’re all about transformation,” Croft said. “We’re not here to argue or debate about one another’s differences or different beliefs. We’re here about introspection. What are those things we believe and actions we take because that would hinder us from entering a relationship with one another when we are different?”
For someone whose family member took part in the Civil Rights movement and also gay rights, Rustin wouldn’t miss the program.
“We, as African Americans, know racism goes on on a daily basis,” she said. “I think more white people need to know what we go through so they can be more empathic.
“We need to learn more about the LBGT population as well. My uncle was gay, but even to this day, I don’t understand everything. The more gay people I meet, the more understand what they go through. This is definitely important. Uncle Bayard would be happy to see this going on.”
Sometimes it’s hard to believe even now, in 2015, people still struggle for equality, whether because of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
To Croft, that’s why holding something such as the Courageous Conversation is so important.
“Sometimes I am saddened,” she said. “It just shows us that there’s more to do. The implicit bias is there and if we don’t break that cycle, we’re just going to continue to raise our children to have them. We’re getting better with explicit biases. Everybody knows how to be politically correct and what not to say, but it’s those hidden things that we haven’t gotten to the root of where we can generally say, ‘I do want equality for you.’”
Though she may not be the first to hold something such as this in the country, Croft believes she was chosen to bring the message to the West Chester area.
“I believe that it was Holy Ghost inspired,” she said. “There was a need and I just felt compelled. I felt like somebody needed to do it and I looked around and the Lord chose me. We, in America, focus so heavily on race as the only bias. It’s not. There are a lot of biases that hinder us from entering into a beloved community. We want to highlight those communities that have been so marginalized and let them know we’re all one.”