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Staunton event honors school integrators, convenes dialogue on heritage, identity

stauntonLast spring, more than 200 people came to the Booker T Washington Community Center in Staunton to break bread together and converse across differences. Building Bridges for the Greater Good will help these conversations continue at another Breaking Bread event on Saturday April 7, from 3:00-5:30 p.m.

This year’s theme is “Honor and Heritage: Building Bridges to the Beloved Community”. Once again, the community is invited to share food and engage in conversations about their heritage, what it means to them, and to discuss the implications for our community moving forward.

Before the table group conversations begin, however, the group will honor students and staff of Booker T Washington School – Staunton’s formerly segregated African American high school –  and those who were at the forefront in integrating area schools. It will also honor the dedication, skill, leadership and accomplishments of today’s Fighting Leeman Basketball Team.

The program will feature an intergenerational discussion through the lens of Staunton’s rich heritage of basketball, with players from the 1960s Tim Vickers (Rhashaan Juma), Ken Venable, and others interviewed by Lee High’s Kaiseem Simms and Makayla Hackett, who will also share what it is like to be high school athletes today. There will also be a conversation between Booker T Washington Coach Alfonso Hamilton and Lee High Coach Terrel Mickens. The conversation will be moderated by Chris Lassiter and will feature song by Rebecca “Cookie” Johnson.

“We want to create a space where the community can come together to learn from and honor each other’s stories and, together, acknowledge the histories that shape our identities and current realities,” said Building Bridges founder and Staunton Vice Mayor Ophie Kier. “Yet we will not be able to move forward until we have acknowledged our past. It is time to honor the brave men and women – who were children at the time – who integrated area schools. We need to learn what it was like for them. We also need to understand what it is like today. This will give us a strong foundation for honoring everyone’s heritage and identity and being a strong community together,” explains Pastor Elaine Rose, president of the group.

Everyone is invited. Groups of about eight people will join a table, mixing for maximum diversity, and will have a structured conversation sharing stories of how their heritage has shaped them. Participants are asked to bring a bread or finger food to share with others at their table group and will have an opportunity to explain what this food means for them in the context of their heritage. Please note that couples are encouraged to each bring a small dish, reflective of each person’s heritage. Afterwards, they will have an opportunity to share what they have learned from these stories and what this means for our community.

The community can stay up to date about plans for the event on Building Bridges for the Greater Good’s facebook page. Building Bridges is an all-volunteer community group committed to bringing people together and to fostering community healing.


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