When I first started working on Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, A Walk to Respect, a play written by Beth Duda with original poetry by Cedric Hameed, I had no idea how relevant the themes this show explored would be in today’s modern world. First off, if you haven’t seen the show, it’s a meaningful play about the friendship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass during the civil war. One of the major themes of the piece is civil discourse. Two men with differing opinions and goals are able to come together against all odds to create positive change. I don’t know if you’ve caught any news programs over the past year or so, but there have been quite a few differing opinions and not a lot of common ground.

If you really think about it, it’s no surprise that the greatest divide in our country since the Civil War happened during a pandemic. Neighbors were locked away in their homes. Those little everyday interactions with people from the other side of the aisle suddenly went away. We weren’t standing in lines at groceries stores and making small chat with the clerk or the stranger behind us. As we interacted less, our differences became more apparent, causing a further divide. Wearing or not wearing a mask was like a highway sign blasting out our political views. Mask on? Mask off? With me? Against me? How can we come together when our differences are so on display? If we cannot communicate and connect, how will we even find out what our shared aspirations are?

The Patterson Foundation believes that change happens at the speed of trust. So, as part of the Aspirations to Actions initiative, it sponsored multiple discussion groups centered around the themes of “A Walk to Respect.” The goal was to continue the conversation with people from all walks of life with different backgrounds and belief systems. For us all to meet in a brave space and discuss topics from unique perspectives with the hope of discovering shared aspirations and perhaps a path to move forward together.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in multiple Continuing the Conversation groups since December 2020. Each group was truly amazing and inspirational in its own way. We never knew where the conversations would go or what sort of art or poetry would be created, but I always ended up feeling humbled and grateful for the brilliant people in my community and the deep discussions we shared.

Like each group, the latest round of participants were all brilliant and thoughtful people. But there was something different this time… something exciting! These folks were aligned on their aspirations and wanted more action. They were ready to walk! I honestly wasn’t prepared for their willingness to connect outside of the sessions, take these ideas, and get out into the community. It challenged how I viewed the sessions and broadened my thoughts – what else is possible? Can we think bigger in an actionable way?

I’m looking forward to discovering the actions our aspirations could inspire and taking that walk together. Thank you to The Patterson Foundation for creating this rich opportunity and to all participants for helping me grow with your varying perspectives, wisdom, and art. My walk continues…

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