KFTC members challenged, inspired at annual meeting

About 250 members enjoyed KFTC’s Annual Membership Meeting this past weekend, exploring the theme of arts and culture in organizing.

“We can work together through our culture,” said Judi Jennings, who introduced the theme during the Saturday morning plenary. “As Kentuckians, we can connect through our culture. Because that’s what we have in common, we’re all Kentuckians.

“That’s what cultural organizing is – it’s connecting through our culture, finding our similarities, talking about our problems and working together.

“Cultural organizing is a way. It’s a way of being, it’s a way of doing your organizing, it’s a way of talking to people and listening to people and finding out about the person before you try to change their mind about the issue,” Jennings continued. “Find out why they think what they think … find out what they believe, what you have in common. Have that conversation.”

Jennings pointed out that, “Our culture is used against us in vicious stereotypes about our people. She also reminded us that, “Our culture can give us hope. Culture can bring us together.”

Keynote speaker Heather McGhee followed the cultural organizing discussion and helped us understand why people, especially white people, think the way we do. Her general theme (and the subject of a forthcoming book) was that racism is bad for white people, too.

“I have this conviction that we have been sold a bill of goods in this country. That we have as part of our story a paradigm, a mental model through which we filter so many conversations about who we are and who belongs and who’s in and who’s out and who deserves what. Which is this idea of a zero-sum competition between groups of people, that what is good for one group is necessarily bad for the other. That there is a pie that we’re all trying to make sure that our group gets a bigger piece of it, and if we get a bigger piece the other groups will get a smaller one.

“I’ve been really trying to think about how it is that those of use that want to see a better, more just, more inclusive and equitable America can possibly get to that promised land if we keep believing and letting our country’s story be that’s it’s all a zero-sum game – one group wins at the expense of another.

“That idea of a zero-sum competition is at the core of the story Donald Trump tells about America. When he says make America great again, he is saying make America great again for my group. And the reason why America isn’t great is because the other groups have risen and taken some of what we deserve.

“This idea of a zero-sum competition – that progress for people of color necessarily means regress for white people, a loss for white people; that progress for women comes at the expense of men; that progress for LGBTQ people comes at the expense of hetero-normative families – that is just at the core of common sense in the story we tell ourselves in America. And it is certainly at the core of the right-wing story about what’s going on right now.

“And yet, these stories that we tell ourselves are very powerful and it is hard to avoid them.”

print-2417McGhee explored the idea that, “There has been a political strategy since the civil rights movement to degrade the very idea of ‘the public’ – the public that is an integrated public shall be no public at all. That is our story today, that we can’t have a bigger pie; that progress for some comes at the expense of others.

“Why is it that anti-government sentiment has become so much a gospel of the white story about America? That zero-sum mentality that wants to be suspicious of anything that brings us all together in one place for fear that progress for some will mean that it comes at the expense of others is the core story in American culture that I think we have to attack and uproot.

“A room that looks like this that is a multi-racial room that represents the diversity of Kentucky has to be at the forefront of saying we all do better when we all do better.”

print-2150Members had opportunities to reflect on and discussion McGhee’s insights throughout the rest of the weekend. Also offered where 10 skill and issue workshops, facilitated lunch table discussions, times for cultural sharing, an annual awards banquet, an afternoon hike led by Outdoor Afro and parties.

During the business meeting on Sunday morning, members elected new executive committee members: Meta Mendel-Reyes (Madison County) as chairperson, Randy Wilson (Knott County) as vice-chairperson, Christian Torp (Fayette County) as secretary-treasurer), and Cassia Herron (Jefferson County) as the at-large representative. They are joined by Dana Beasley as the immediate past chair.

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