CENTREVILLE — Late Sunday afternoon, Jan. 10, the continuing Sunday Supper discussions on race relationships within Queen Anne’s County took place virtually via Zoom. With 47 different households joining in, this meeting was the largest online meeting thus far since the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the organization to not meet in person as it had been doing since it was founded in the county back in 2016.

Beginning in 2016, Sunday Suppers were held with a wonderful meal served at a different location, with invited guests from the county having face to face discussions to promote racial understanding and awareness among residents. The whole program lasted approximately an hour and half with each supper meeting. At first, different groups within the county were invited; local clergy from different churches, next county educators, then law enforcement groups, students, the Latino community from the county, and so forth. All parts of the county hosted these personal meetings.

Nearly a year ago, the planned meeting for last March, 2020, had to be canceled due to the outbreak of the pandemic. The Sunday Supper committee soon came together via Zoom and decided to continue hosting community meetings virtually. Thus far, there have been four online meetings, and all four have been very successful, and have grown in size each time.

There have been two main differences in the online meetings; one, no food, which was one of the attractions in bringing people together as a social event. Two, the small breakout group discussions have been very orderly with each individual being able to hear each other share insights about personal experiences with different races in their lifetimes and opinions. That has been a big plus, as when the personal meetings were held, each breakout group was held in the same large room and the noise from each table made it very difficult to hear the person sitting next to you. So, communications have improved immensely, in that regard.

At the Jan. 10 meeting, all 47 households met together briefly as meeting coordinator Mary Ella Jourdak explained the ground rules for the discussions. Everyone was encouraged to listen carefully to each person speaking on the designated topics of discussion, remain open minded, and not critical. The meeting was to promote understanding, and discourage blatant judgement.

The main topic was to understand what equity is, in today’s society, and how it differs from equality.

Visual graphs were used to help in this understanding, as well as a definition; “An absence of the disparities that are associated with specific advantages or disadvantages. Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy a full, healthy lives. Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place, and needs the same things,” Jourdak said.

Each of eight breakout discussion groups had about six people. Each had a discussion facilitator. The facilitator presented the questions and asked everyone to share their thoughts about it, including the facilitator’s thoughts.

The first question used as an “ice breaker” to help everyone feel comfortable about speaking and sharing was; “Name a silver lining you experienced during the COVID pandemic?”

Answers varied from person to person. One shared that they got to spend a new sense of quality time with their spouse at home. Another said they discovered what ZOOM is, as they had never even heard of ZOOM previously, and that they were able to continue meeting, virtually, via ZOOM with their grandchildren, other family and friends using this tool. Two others expressed unexpected growth in their personal businesses, another getting married as the pandemic started, and another being grateful to be able to continue teaching children their weekly Sunday School lessons via the ZOOM format. The group was successful in taking an overall negative event from 2020, and finding something good that came from it.

The next question presented was, “What can you personally do to promote racial equity in 2021?” Each group member responded thoughtfully, one saying they were reading a booklet that provided suggestions on “How to be an anti-racist”. The booklet provided step-by-step” ideas to employ in daily life. Another said his goal was to use his business to further “help everyone achieve their goals”. One person said they had the advantage of growing up in a ‘racially diverse community in their youth”. It led them to be motivated to help any particular disadvantaged racial group different than her own, to have a more full life of achievement and self-worth. Another said, “Look for small ways to emphasize our common humanity.”

After the small groups concluded, everyone was brought back into the large group setting to summarize the positive from each session. Group facilitators did the summaries, and everyone agreed at how they were amazed at how everyone seemed to be willing to share their thoughts and share opinions.

It was announced that the plan going forward is that there will be a monthly Zoom Sunday Supper meeting the second Sunday of each month, beginning at 4 p.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m. However, the next Sunday Supper will be held on Sunday, February 21 due to the second Sunday falling on Valentine’s Day. The meetings are open to all who wish to participate.

To participate all you must do is request an invitation and the link to join the meeting will be emailed to you. Email your request to qac.equity@gmail.com.

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