On a Thursday night in New York City, eight strangers anxiously gathered around the dinner table of a Brooklyn home. The conversation quickly went from pleasantries to deeply personal, over a potluck meal of shakshuka (poached eggs cooked over a savory tomato and onion sauce), Chinese dumplings, roasted vegetables and apple crumble pie.
“Please describe a time, it could be recent or a long time ago, when you felt unwelcome, unworthy, unsafe or threatened?” This question, posed by one of the evening’s hosts, Emily May was met with a bit of awkward silence followed by a few deep sighs and additional sips of wine, before each person began to share.
For Medina Fredericks, who is of Afghan, Mexican and Filipino heritage, a moment she felt unwelcome was when, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, she was asked by someone she considered a friend, “What did your people do?”
Another question centered on the meaning of citizenship and when the concept of it was first experienced or understood by everyone. That question evoked the memory of what dinner co-host Gabe Back-Gaal recalled as “the politics of having two moms” who did not have the right to be legally married.
This group of eight people — which also included two African-American pastors and a U.S. veteran among others — were there to consciously listen to the stories of others who don’t look like them or necessarily agree with their personal or political ideologies.
The dinner guests were together to find answers to one question, where do we go from here?