Spirit & Place – Powerful Conversations On Race

Are you familiar with Spirit & Place Festival? We had an article previewing it in our Sunday edition.

If you are not, let me be clear. I believe this is a good thing. According to the web site: “The annual Spirit & Place Festival is almost here! From November 3 – 13 we will explore the theme of IDENTIFY with more than 25 independently created events. From musical and dance performances to family-friendly offerings, art exhibits, panel discussions, and community conversations we are sure you will find something to love. Visit our event calendar to learn more or flip through our Festival Event Guide.”

To be sure, the more events that bring together a wide range of diverse people is good. Back in my day we used to call it sports. People of all shapes, sizes, colors, religions and persuasions got together to play softball tournaments, tennis, horseshoes, fish, canoe, play cards . . . you name it. Afterward, a lot of them would get together at watering holes to quench the thirst they worked up.

A lot of friends were made.

Of course it wasn’t all sports. That’s just what I was mostly exposed to. There were art fairs and motorcycle rallies and theater outings and on and on. The world wasn’t all peaches and cream by a long shot, but it sure didn’t feel as divided as it does now.

OK, enough old guy reminiscing.

As I looked through the Spirit & Place web site ( I noticed something called Powerful Conversations on Race. It reads: “Powerful Conversations on Race (PCR) is a monthly community dialogue series exploring topics around race, racism, and the resulting impact. These sessions provide a means of getting comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics and are rooted in humanities- and arts-based materials and sources.

Each month we’ll choose 1 or 2 readings and other source materials such as art, music, poetry, lyrics and videos to ground our conversation. Facilitators trained in the Civic Reflection Dialogue Method will use these materials to further support and push our discussion into deeper examination and reflection on our underlying beliefs around race and racism in America and its implications. It is not necessary to read or engage with any of the source materials before we meet. In fact, we encourage everyone to come to the table as is.

This IS NOT a lecture or book club, but rather a space for community to come together and dive deeply into a variety of topics concerning race. Active participation is expected.”

Again, I think this is a good thing. I’ve pounded on my little soapbox for years and years that civil discourse is needed. The more that happens, the better off we’ll all be.

But one of the related topics that often comes up when race is discussed is getting rid of statues and monuments related to the old South, the Civil War and anything that reminds us of the dark time our country went through.

Perhaps that won’t happen at this event? Perhaps these participants are better than that? I hope so.

Let me back up. I have not talked with any of the Spirit & Place organizers. So perhaps they don’t condone tearing down statues from a dreadful period in our history. I simply don’t know, and am not accusing them of anything. My point is much simpler. How can efforts to rewrite (at worst) or ignore (at best) history be a good thing? The very real fact is that our nation went through some ugly, ugly times. Do we think by ignoring it we are changing it? Do we think erasing the physical reminders will make it OK? Have we not learned that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it?

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone in their right mind can defend racism. There’s no part of any sort of bigotry that’s OK. We are becoming more open and accepting as a people, and there is nothing bad about that.

If Spirit & Place really does produce honest conversations that help bring people together then more power to it.

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at