Make a name-tag, sign-in, grab a color -- those were the first three steps when community members walked through the door of our first On the Table event. Each colored paper matched a colored table cloth. It was a night for meeting new people and engaging in conversation. The different colors gave people the opportunity to sit with people they had never met and learn something about our community from a different perspective.
On the Table is a community-wide discussion. It brings people together in groups large and small on a single day. Blue Grass Community Foundation launched it three years ago. Through last year's exit survey, the Foundation identified that the top concerns within Lexington are race relations and inclusivity. As a result, this year’s conversation explored how our community is contributing to everyone’s sense of belonging – especially those from historically marginalized communities. Not only did On the Table encourage discussion, but it offered an opportunity to apply later for small grants to implement ideas.
Together with Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, Maxwell Street Legal Clinic hosted five tables and 28 people. Many participants were church members. Some were Kentucky Equal Justice Center staff. And others were community members, simply invested in the conversation and social change. Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church was gracious enough to provide us all with a wonderful meal.
Through our conversations, we surfaced multiple changes we wished to see. Some were out of reach without official action, such as bias training for police officers. But many were tangible and doable by people in the room. From covered bus stops near the church to signs that read “Unlearn Fear and Hate,” our ideas revealed our dedication to inclusivity and compassion for all.
Maddy, a legal assistant at Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, commented on the evening: “It was really great coming together with members of the community to discuss big ideas like inclusivity and belonging in our community. As much as we all want to believe Lexington is welcoming to everyone, it became clear that each individual had different and unique experiences with feeling a sense of belonging here, both in positive and negative ways. [Last night's] conversation definitely helped me see different points of view, and I hope we all walked away having grown a little and learned something that is actionable!”