Dallas Dinner Table

On January 16th I was one of about 600 people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who were intentionally talking about race relations in Dallas around a stranger’s dinner table.

Dallas Dinner Table is a series of dinners on the evening of Martin Luther King Jr. Day that convenes diverse groups of people, who wouldn’t normally sit down to a meal together, to talk about difficult issues around race relations in Dallas. The dinners happen all over DFW at churches, restaurants and peoples’ homes. With the topic of race relations and equity on many people’s minds right now, this event couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.

Dallas Dinner Table 2015 at Olive Garden in Plano. From www.dallasdinnertable.com

This year was my first time participating. I had tried to register in the past, but there are a limited number of slots and, naturally, they fill up quickly. Last year I got on the mailing list and signed up as soon as registration opened for this year’s event. Some people volunteer to host, others volunteer to be DDT-trained facilitators, and others register to simply be part of the conversation.

For the dinners themselves, Dallas Dinner Table aims to group people by differing ages, backgrounds and ethnicities but they also try to assign you a location that is close to where you work or live. My dinner was hosted by a young woman and her boyfriend at her apartment in Uptown. Interestingly, there were 7 or 8 of us there and while we had never met each other before, we quickly uncovered various connections through friends or work, which was terrific!

Dallas Dinner Table 2015 at Blue Mesa. From www.dallasdinnertable.com

The DDT format is great because it gives people an intentional safe space to have these difficult conversations. Our facilitator, an African-American young professional, talked about her personal experiences in a way that I think a lot of us hadn’t experienced before. It was informative and enlightening to the rest of us hearing about her personal experiences with discrimination and the deep-rooted pain she felt. I know that discrimination happens, but to have a person sitting with you relaying their personal stories … it’s hard.

These issues are going to take a lot of time and intentional effort to heal and the DDT conversations show us that we all have to be honest, open-minded and respectful in order for us to make progress. Racial tension is not something that has an easy solution – the issues and pain that exists go very deep and we need to recognize and remember that.

A Dallas Dinner Table from 2015 in Oak Cliff. From www.dallasdinnertable.com

It was really a valuable experience for me, and I would recommend it to everyone. You have to go in very open-minded and willing to have a respectful conversation even if people say things that you don’t agree with that are totally opposite from your point of view or core beliefs.

It was a great way to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Monica Egert Smith

Author: Monica Egert Smith

Senior Director of Strategic Philanthropy at Communities Foundation of Texas

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