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Round Table Talk

Durham County Library

Contact Name: Faith Burns,
Type of Initiative: Inclusion/Tolerance   
Initiative Partners: Durham Police Department 


Round Table Talk: Open Conversations about Uncomfortable Topics (RTT) was a program that provided a safe, nurturing, and inclusive environment for teens to learn how to engage in discussion about topics such as race, gender, poverty and privilege. RTT met for a four sessions that focused on identity, race, equity and privilege, and the relationship between the police and the Black Community.  In session one teens participated in a “write-around” where they answered questions written on the walls in the program room. This encouraged teens to engage in conversations about the definitions of identity, and respect, all without having to speak out loud. In the equity/equality and privilege session, teens participated in a privilege walk. In this activity, all teens lined up in the middle of the room. Then, I read different statements, such as “Both of my parents went to college” or “I have never been followed around in a store.” As I read each statement, teens either took a step forward, or a step backward, based on how the experience applied to them. At the end, the teens who identified as heterosexual white men were at the front of the room. Those who identified as black females were at the back. The session ended with a discussion on the walk, how it made them feel, and what they learned.  The final two programs focused on the relationship between law enforcement and People of Color (POC). For these programs, I partnered with a Durham Police officer. In the weeks leading up to the two sessions, the police officer, a white male, came to the library to hang out with and get to know the teens, many of whom identify as POC. The teens and officer played video games and gradually built a relationship. The officer began his time in the library out of uniform, and then gradually progressed to wearing full uniform. In the last sessions the officer sat down with the teens and talked about the relationship between police and POC. The teens were open about their distrust of police, and the officer was responsive to their concerns. The conversation was raw and honest, and everyone left with a greater awareness of how to work together to build community. That was the goal of RTT. Teens gained awareness of social justice topics, which is the first step to building an inclusive and tolerant society.