Why Courageous Conversations Matter

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;
courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

-WINSTON CHURCHILL

When COVID interrupted our Courageous Conversations series from gathering at Barrington’s White House, we worried — would people still come? We had been building beautiful momentum on our learning journey together, exploring everything from The Art of Listening and Cultivating Curiosity to Confronting Prejudice. But we had really just begun.

To our delight, we found our virtual community grew across zip codes, with devotees joining from home and inviting family and friends who could now participate from afar. Fellows stepped up to facilitate breakout dialogues on Zoom, and guest speakers continued to join us from across the country to share wisdom for fostering greater inclusion and belonging wherever we live.

Of course this was all against the backdrop of a life-altering global pandemic, a hyper-polarized presidential campaign, and a national racial reckoning. But we had been building tools and skills to meet this moment — so we did.

To date, over 1,000 people have registered for the monthly series, with upwards of 9,000 webpage views, 2,000 video views and 1,000 podcast downloads. We smile recalling early planning meetings when we hoped maybe 50 people would come?

Though we hold a long view of time for social healing and transformation, we’ve seen seeds begin to bear fruit. Some have started their own efforts or joined in solidarity with others, from book and film clubs to racial healing circles to community advocacy initiatives. We’ve heard people say the series helped them see who is missing from their own civic organizations and social networks, and seek ways to extend invitations and expand representation at tables where they sit.

We have been encouraged by personal acts of courage — sometimes standing up to speak, other times sitting down to listen. In our second season, we transitioned from calling this a “series” to a Courageous Community — by which we mean a community unafraid to explore the sometimes uncomfortable but necessary conversations we must have as neighbors and strangers to build a more inclusive future where everyone belongs.

Looking back on this virtual year and ahead to returning in person, we asked a few community members what they have learned, and why courageous conversations matter to them. Thank you to Sophy and Grant Elliott, Carol and David Nelson, Dr. Cynthia Armendáriz-Maxwell, Susan Padula, and Ellaine Sambo-Reyther for sharing their hearts and their time.

—Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque, Jessica Green & Claire Nelson

“Courageous Conversations has given me exactly what I was looking for — opportunities to hear new voices and new perspectives. One of my favorite takeaway quotes is: ‘I never learn anything from hearing myself talk.’”

— Carol Nelson, Barrington resident

“Courageous Conversations is an opportunity to learn, listen, be heard and actively advance our shared humanity. In our home it fostered and framed rich conversations of life experiences —with cross-generational perspectives.

— Sophy Elliott, Barrington resident

“The most important and beautiful things that people have to offer are their presence and their differences. Having honest, open, and courageous conversations can allow us to better understand what others bring to the table, and to grow as empathetic humans.”

— Grant Elliott, co-founder, Be The Change Barrington

“The most important and beautiful things that people have to offer are their presence and their differences. Having honest, open, and courageous conversations can allow us to better understand what others bring to the table, and to grow as empathetic humans.”

— Grant Elliott, co-founder, Be The Change Barrington

“This series inspired us to start our own Courageous Conversations at school, and it has given me language and insights to advocate for equity as a shared community value.”

— Dr. Cynthia Armendáriz-Maxwell, Principal, Sunny Hill Elementary School

“Through Courageous Conversations I am learning that recognizing the diversity and disparities in our many life experiences allows a community to grow in such beautiful ways. Without the courage to speak, listen, and understand, we lose the ability to see our connected future.”

— Ellaine Sambo-Reyther, Barrington resident

“I have been so happy to see how our community has embraced these conversations — and now we are seeing the positive ripple effects.”

— David Nelson, Barrington resident


YOU ARE INVITED

Courageous Conversations returns to gathering Wednesday, September 8th, 7 p.m. at Barrington’s White House!
Second Wednesday evenings through December. Hosted by Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque and Jessica Green and presented by Urban Consulate. Made possible thanks to generous support from Barrington Area Community Foundation, BMO Wealth Management, Jessica & Dominic Green, Kim Duchossois, Tyler & Danielle Lenczuk, Cobey & Erich Struckmeyer, Young Chung, Susan & Rich Padula, Carol & David Nelson, Dennis Barsema, Julie Kanak & Mike Rigali — and ticket purchasers like you!

To signup and support the series, purchase your season ticket here.


PHOTOGRAPHY BY LINDA BARRETT

With deep gratitude to Carol & David Nelson, Sophy & Grant Elliott, Dr. Cynthia Armendáriz-Maxwell, Susan Padula, and Ellaine Sambo-Reyther for their commitment to building courageous community.

This Guest Essay is part of a series in partnership with Courageous Conversations.

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