When the founders of The People’s Supper began their work, it was called ‘100 Days, 100 Dinners’. They held their first dinners on Inauguration Day in January 2017. But the bridging and healing work they began that January day was too big to fit into those first 100 days of the 45th presidency, and 100 meals couldn’t feed the level of hunger many Americans had to attend one of these dinners.
Since that campaign, their project has evolved into the People’s Supper. They’ve received praise from former US President Barack Obama and formed a partnership with the Obama Foundation. The People’s Supper founders join the Govern Yourself Accordingly podcast on our first episode. They share what they’re learning, where they’re going, and the magic that happens when you bring people together for delicious food and honest conversation.
Some things that come up during the show
Small talk vs. Real Talk
“I hate small talk and the fact that all of the things that we spend our time not talking about are the things that are most important to talk about.”
– Lennon Flowers
Raising the bar
“I started to wonder if it wasn’t enough for us just not to harass each other. I’ve been told for so long that that was too ambitious a goal. And that all the sudden I was like, ‘No, no.’ Not only is that not too ambitious, that is not enough. We actually need to figure out how see and care for one another.”
– Emily May
The meaning of apocalypse
“One thing that kept coming up for me in the wake of the 2016 presidential election in the US is this image of apocalypse. Not kind of the stuff of aliens coming to Earth and ending the world as we know it. But, we know that the Greek root of the word apocalypse actually means to uncover. And, I think what was uncovered in that moment for a lot of people in the United States was just how deeply frayed the ties that tied together our democracy really are.”
– Rev. Jennifer Bailey
— Share this episode using the shortlink: https://www.springtide.ngo/gya1 —
Resources plugged in this episode
– The poem that starts each meal: An Invitation to Brave Space by Micky ScottBey Jones
– That article Emily recommended: Post-Election Reconciliation by Eric Liu
– Resources for better conversations: ThePeoplesSupper.org
– Source material for that clip of Obama talking about food and his grandmother: Barack Obama in Boston (1995)
Dining with Difference: The People’s Supper
Mark Coffin: This is episode number one of the Govern Yourself Accordingly podcast, the podcast for engaged citizens and public leaders who want to lead change through politics with their integrity intact.
My name is Mark Coffin, and I’m your host. Welcome!
[Dishes clanking, water running, indistinguishable chatter, chairs moving, people settling]
Female Voice [Reading Poem] :
Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
But It will be our brave space together,
and We will work on it side by side
[Theme Music Begins]
Mark Coffin: The poem you just heard called ‘An invitation to Brave Space’ and was written by Mickey Scott Bey-Jones.
That poem is read at the beginning of each of The People’s Suppers – suppers that have been happening around the United States since early 2017.
The first people’s supper, the first ten people’s suppers happened in homes across Washington D.C. on Inauguration Day – January 20th 2017.
At that time, the project was simply called “100 days, 100 dinners” – where each dinner would be an opportunity for people who felt divided or hurt by the election campaign to come together for bridging, and healing.
But the work that happened in those early dinners could not be contained to 100 days, or 100 meals.
100 days 100 dinners is now called The People’s Supper, and today, on the Govern Yourself Accordingly podcast, the three founders of the People’s Supper – Lennon Flowers, Reverend Jennifer Bailey, and Emily May – they join me to talk about the kind of conversations they’ve been having, and organizing across difference, and across the United States.
When the four of us had a chance to speak we were all in different places, so unfortunately, we couldn’t share a meal, but I asked each of them to introduce themselves as if we were all around the same table.
Lennon Flowers is the founder of the Dinner Party, an organization which…
Lennon Flowers: “… which ostensibly to the world is a community of mostly 20- and 30-somethings who have each experienced some form of a major loss, and typically a death loss, and we connect around potluck tables to talk about it. And I think the short answer of why you do what you do is kind of the better answer than what often times, is just I hate small talk
Mark Coffin: Love it.
Lennon Flowers: and the fact that all of the things that we spend our time not talking about are the things that are most important to talk about. And I’m dedicated to creating low barrier spaces in which humans can be human with one another.
Reverend Jennifer Bailey is the founder and executive director of the Faith Matters Network… which is
Rev. Jennifer Bailey: “… a people of colour collective based in the american south that works to empower what we would call 21st century, spiritually rooted, justice oriented leaders to build more equitable communities. If I was at a dinner party I probably wouldn’t say all that, I would just say that I’m in the business of empowering rad folk to do good work and build communities in the world.
Emily May, who is also the co-founder and Executive director of Hollaback … an organization that is dedicated to fighting harassment in all its forms.
Emily May: I do this work because I believe in people being who they are and having the right to be who they are no matter where they are, and I think that part of the reason that I got hooked up with these two amazing women, is because around the time of the election I started to wonder if it wasn’t enough for us just not to harass each other.
I’ve been told for so long that that was too ambitious a goal. And that all the sudden I was like, ‘No, no. Not only is that not too ambitious, that is not enough. We actually need to figure out how to go beyond that, and deeply see and care for one another.’
And so, you know, together the motley crew of us launched the people’s supper right after the election.
Emily May: The funny thing is, when Lennon started doing the dinner party full time I was so happy for her, and I was so bummed because I was like ‘gosh you know, their organization focuses on grief, we do really nothing in that space. We’re never gonna be able to collaborate on anything.”
Emily May: The only emotion I could put my finger on before the election, and after the election was this emotion of grief, right? I was really plugged into the trauma side of things, so what I was watching were people who had experienced, you know, trauma and being triggered and having that trauma being reignited through the election. And even inside of that – even for folks who hadn’t experienced that degree of trauma, there was just that grieving, this losing of one another.
And so it was in that spirit that I was like, “i know someone who knows something about grief, like I know one person – literally – who knows about grief.. And so I reached out to Lennon, the locus of all things wonderful.
Lennon Flowers: at the time it was interesting because you know that was under the expectation that we would wake up after election day in a very different world than the one that it turned out we woke up to. But it felt really important I think that you know both on an individual, person to person kind of level, and culturally. So often our impulse is just to move on. Right?
And, you know, I spend my waking hours and many of my evening hours around dinner tables in that kind of recognition space that there is a difference between moving forward and moving on. And that actually when we try to wipe things under a rug and pretend that they didn’t happen – and there was so much grief and hurt in the wake of simply the election cycle – I think it’s hard often times to remember what 2016 was against the backdrop of 2017 now.
But that impulse and that need for communities together there and come forward in what Emily the time was calling this kind of moment of truth. It felt so so important you know and the recognition that this isn’t an experience to be done alone and in isolation and with your, you know ‘getting your own self-care on’; but actually one that’s really dependent on our ability to gather in communities and to gather and to hear each other.
And then the election happened and it felt in that moment their recognition that we woke up in a moment of this moment of apocalypse and the meaning of that term has only become clear for me through Jenn’s work.
Rev. Jennifer Bailey: Yeah, so I’m a preacher. So I think a lot about the end of times. One thing that kept coming up for me in the wake of the 2016 presidential election in the US is this image of apocalypse. Not kind of the stuff of aliens coming to Earth and ending the world as we know it.
But we know that the Greek root of the word apocalypse actually means to uncover. And I think what was uncovered in that moment for a lot of people in the United States was just how deeply frayed the ties that tied together a democracy of early are yeah. And that there were a whole lot of folks interested post-presidential election in a conversation about reconciliation. But reconciliation assumes that you have relationship to begin with, and I can say for myself as a black woman born and raised in the United States and is the direct descendant of slaves; I think there is a way in which we assume relationship in the US as this great cultural melting pot when really we haven’t really touched each other.
And I mean that both because of policies that keep us segregated from one another, and where we can live, and because of the way our school systems are structured that keep us apart from one another. And, so the work then becomes what does it look like for us in this apocalyptic moment to revision what the American dream can be. When for a lot of folks who’ve lived on the margins, we’ve known that the dream was a myth for a very long time just feels like everybody else is catching up.
Mark Coffin: Right. And I guess we’ve talked a lot about how you guys got together and decided to work together for maybe just to take a step back what “what is the people supper?
Emily May: I mean the people’s supper was this this idea that that maybe… maybe if we could see each other more deeply, that it wouldn’t necessarily change our policy opinions but it might change the way that we see each other.
I read something before the election by Eric Liu that was really helpful to me. It was this piece about you know truth and reconciliation and how you a rush to reconcile after the election – and remember this is back when we were all checking our New York Times apps daily and seeing that Hillary was most definitely gonna win. But the rush to reconcile post-election could actually further entrench injustice because of what Jen’s talking about. Because now we have seen something, we have uncovered something and we can’t actually unsee that anymore. So if we just try and pretend like that didn’t happen, ‘let’s just try and go back to the way things used to be when we were all getting along’. You know, then we’re not actually seizing the opportunity to look at what’s wrong to look at what’s dividing us and through looking at what’s dividing us start to explore the nuances of that and the curvature of that and what’s true and what’s not true in that and where we can heal and where we can bridge. And so we had this idea with the people’s supper, that it would really have these two sides to it, that on one side we would create spaces for healing for you know folks who had been similarly impacted by the election.
Or by the policies that have been enacted since the election to come together or the events since the election like Charlottesville for example to come together and just to be in community with one another and to process what happened and to explore this idea of individual and collective resilience.
And then you know the other on the other side of the equation, we were interested in this idea of bridging. We knew that not everybody was was right for that, not everybody was ready for that, not everybody was even safe inside those conversations. But we also knew that there was this curiosity, this hunger, this interest there to enter into these conversations across divides in ways that were non-judgmental.
And so we set upon the task of figuring out what that might look like, and how we could have those bridging dinners. Not along lines of policy, but along lines of humanity and who people were. And I think one of the lessons that we’ve learned within all of this is that there is really no such thing as true healing suppers, where you’re just with folks who were only sharing your identity. Because none of us are the exact same people.
None of us share the exact same set of identities. There’s always going to be bridging to some degree, and similarly many of the bridging suppers that we’ve had, we expected a real drive to be across political lines. But the reality is that conservatives have been hesitant to show up to the table, largely for fear of harassment or for assumptions that they must be they must be stupid, or they must be racist.
But what we have seen is a tremendous feat of broad forms of bridging. Bridging across racial divide, bridging across political divide as well, right recognizing there is a spectrum inside that [the left] and you know bridging across age differences. And that type of thing. So that’s been really beautiful just, so you come together as well.
What unites the people who show up at a People’s Supper
Mark Coffin: So, I’m curious: what is it that that the people who come out to a people’s supper, what do those people have in common. Like what is it that’s enough to get them in the room, to say ‘yeah I want to spend an evening doing something like this.’
Jennifer Bailey: You know my sense is that one thing that unites people who show up at our dinner tables is this deep kind of gut sense that ‘something’s not right’ in their communities. It may be that they don’t know their neighbors, it may be that they see a really profound disconnect happening in the public sphere, but also see it happening in their own life – across lines of difference. And I’d be curious Lennon and Emily what you think unites people. But I do think there’s also something to this point around grief, that Emily May was making earlier that something missing and often translates into a deep feeling of grief and loss, and there’s seeking something to fill that space.
What unites the people who show up at a People’s Supper
Mark Coffin: So, I’m curious: what is it that that the people who come out to a people’s supper, what do those people have in common. Like what is it that’s enough to get them in the room, to say ‘yeah I want to spend an evening doing something like this.’
Rev. Jennifer Bailey: You know my sense is that one thing that unites people who show up at our dinner tables is this deep kind of gut sense that ‘something’s not right’ in their communities. It may be that they don’t know their neighbors, it may be that they see a really profound disconnect happening in the public sphere, but also see it happening in their own life – across lines of difference. And I’d be curious Lennon and Emily what you think unites people. But I do think there’s also something to this point around grief, that Emily May was making earlier that something missing and often translates into a deep feeling of grief and loss, and there’s seeking something to fill that space.
Emily May: so you know one of the things that that I’ve been thinking about a bit – because so much of the work that we do is online and because part of our work at hollaback is focusing on online harassment – is that people also saw through this election that this is like the dark days of the internet.
These are the days of the internet where if you’re not overwhelmed by security breaches, by data breaches, then perhaps you’re overwhelmed by bots, right? And then if you’re not overwhelmed by any of that, then you may just be overwhelmed by the content that you see looking at your Facebook feed. Right? That’s not the sort of original vision of the Internet of we’re all going to find our like-minded souls across the universe and connect with them.
This is like you know folks really coming at each other, and developing systems and technology structures to come at each other in ways that are hard and that you know as a result of now having social media in our lives for the past 10 or so years we’ve developed this wide but thin net of safety and security.
And we’re in you know what has been termed the age of loneliness and I think that is also a huge driver that in some ways, the people supper which has been lovingly turned by some – I love this term – “dinner technology”. Dinner technology because it brings people together
Mark Coffin: that’s awesome
Emily May: That’s what technology used to do before you know dark days the internet came upon us. And so it is this idea of – almost this backlash – it’s the idea that we are gonna unite on on social media this wide but thin net and instead being like ‘I need somebody with a beating heart next to me who can look me in the eye who can touch my hands to actually hear me, and I need to hear them in a deep way.
Lennon Flowers: I think that there’s just a real exhaustion from existing in a world and where the expectation is one of mistrust. And the expectation is that you will be yelled at, and you will yell. You know, and immediately in the way in which like our language is so deeply coded. And we kind of come to expect the worst in one another to have spaces I think this continues to be a theme for so many people that show up in these suppers and conversations – to just actually be heard, and also to hear. Right?
People do have a genuine desire. So Often the challenge is not – you know we’ve heard from so many people looking to join these bridging suppers. And the issue is not, you know we were asked yesterday ‘Is it hard to convince people that bridging matters? That there is a reason for this?”
And the answer is “No not at all.” We’ve been overwhelmed from the beginning of this project by demand for conversations of that kind. But, very oftentimes the problem is twofold: one, that people don’t feel like they’re in relationship with ‘other’, however other is defined.
And actually oftentimes the reality is that all of us are in you constantly new coalition’s and formations of community and people that we interact with. But we very rarely actually stop and pause and see each other fully. And so there’s a desire to sit down to do that and a real fear of what’s gonna happen if it goes wrong.
As somebody who spent my time over the last few years in conversations about grief and loss and mortality and the hardest experience of the human experience… WITH MILLENNIALS, I entered this work terrified. Because it felt like this could go so deeply wrong. And knowing my own estrangement from members of my family, having been on the receiving end of that vitriol, and also dished it out at times.
It was a deep awareness that if we choose to enter this kind of subject matter, are we inviting a deepening of the problem and an entrenchment? Which is why, actually, we chose so adamantly to avoid issues talk in that first moments of relationship building, and getting to know one another.
This isn’t about talking about issues, it’s certainly not talking about 45. It’s actually talking about us, and about our own stories and lived experiences that have formed who we are. And recognizing that we each so profoundly transcend the labels and identities that we carry and also are shaped by those labels and identity and the differences in the way in which we experience the world, on the basis of the skin we live in and the cultures and context in which we arrive there. So I just, I think, people are ready to not be afraid of each other frankly
Mark Coffin: My perspective as kind of a naive Canadian was that there is this great supper having where Republicans and Democrats, or people that voted for different sides are getting together. But it’s not that, it’s more of the sort of this kind of like more innate kind of like me and other kind of connecting?
Lennon Flowers: yeah I think that’s a little bit of a mythology that this idea that political polarization is the only kind of polarization that there is. Or that is the only bridging work to be done. And the reality is that even among people who share similar voting habits, there are so many assumptions that we make of one another, and projections, and real underlying sense of distrust, and in America borne of a centuries-long history of violence and trauma that hasn’t had space for airing and naming.
So, while we’ve had conversations and suppers across the political line bringing together Trump supporters with Bernie supporters, and those conversations have gone well, that has been a small fraction of the whole bridging conversations. It comes to conversations across generational lines, across faiths lines, across racial lines. There are so many different ways and means through which we self segregate. I think people are hungry to break out of the spaces but don’t necessarily know how.
Mark Coffin: mm-hmm from what we talked about so far sounds like a really valuable important idea for the place that all of you live. And w hat often kind of becomes real for people who come up with great ideas is that it’s a lot more work than that. So I’m curious – obviously you guys have had some success I saw a video on Facebook the other day that Barack Obama was talking about what you’re doing, and there’s some connection with the new foundation there. How did you get this sort of initiative to fly what did the early days look like, what did the first supper look like?
Lennon Flowers: Yeah so all of this happened totally, you know didn’t go into this project in partnership with funding in the door, with a baked plan and strategy, right? We did it because we had to do it as human beings, certainly as leaders of networks and in community with others who were hungering for these same spaces, but we did it because we were seeking these spaces.
And you know as with all of the stories that we carry, you learn pretty quickly that your story is a shared story, right? So I think back on our very first supper right on January 20th, inauguration day. We actually held about 10 suppers in Washington DC and hosted or coordinated by a superhuman friend mutual friend of the three of us who had brought together folks who had gathered in DC for the Women’s March the following day.
And these were squarely in the healing space, and that was a moment and I think that we have seen an evolution from a place of immediate, acute, raw grief to needing spaces for resilience and building our inner reserves, as we recognize that this is a long game. But in those early early days it was just a space where we needed sacred, right, and we needed it now. And so that was ten conversations that happened in a single city among a number of folks who are coming in as strangers but knew that they needed to be there.
And I think not just similarly from what unfolded the following day, part of that experience was a real shared experience of joy, and that actually like entering into these spaces from a place of deep need and hurt, but you find very quickly that being with one another, connecting on a deep and meaningful level as part of a reminder of the vitality of the human experience that is so easy to forget in these moments in which the headlines would remind us of everything that is so very wrong.
Rev. Jennifer Bailey: initially we didn’t know this was gonna be a thing. We started as a campaign called 100 days 100 dinner and I remember I was driving from Nashville Tennessee to Little Rock Arkansas, talking to Lennon on the phone and being like “Yeah, we need to do a dinner thing.” And ‘Yeah let’s pull an Emily” and ‘should we do it around the first 100 days?’ and ‘Okay, go!’
Yeah like most good, if not great, ideas they start out as as nuggets and kernels of things and then you pull together incredible people with a hustle mentality. And so we very much we’re operating out of a space of if we do it they will come. And not just ‘they’ being the people, but the resources would come.
Because it felt like the work that our heart could not shake, right? It felt like something we had to do. We had no idea we started this in January that being awesome video where Barack Obama will be talking about our work. That was like a dream in the far off distance.
What we knew is that our communities were hurting and people needed space to be with one another.
Emily May: Yeah, you know I wish I had Barack Obama or Michelle or somebody on speed dial.
Mark Coffin: You don’t?
Emily May: I’m working on it, I’m working on it. I’m working on step one. And even that was so circuitous you know it was somebody who I’ve known for many years but haven’t talked to in at least six months, who knew somebody who I met one time four years ago, who just took a job at the Obama Foundation. I mean it was very loose, loose, loose connection. You know it wasn’t like you know there was even some champion you know inside the foundation that was rooting for us.
It was just like they heard about what we were doing and it resonated in that deep way that that Jen’s talking about. You know they saw the need and and the president saw the need in the same way that we did.
The difference between ‘Brave Space’ and ‘Safe Space’
Mark Coffin: Yeah it’s interesting. One of the things that has come out of a handful of the interviews I’m doing for this program is that people who approach things trying to solve their own problem or ‘scratch their own itch’ seem to be seeing a lot more success, and being much more effective than people who come out with ‘the world needs this!’ mentality or ‘the institution needs to change!’… at least in terms of the short-term success that I’m hearing about.
If someone is so inspired to put something like this together in their own community perhaps not in in the US, but elsewhere. What are the kind of basic suggestions, what are the kind of learnings that you have had to make a space like this all of the things that you’ve said it needs to be – like safe and sacred and welcoming – how do you make it work?
Rev. Jennifer Bailey: So one thing that’s united each of the dinners that we’ve hosted around the U.S. is a poem actually that we start each diner with which is called An Invitation to Brave Space, which is written by the director of healing justice initiatives at faith matters network Nicky Scott Bay Jones and it draws this deep distinction between safe spaces and brave spaces.
We know that because of our current political social cultural context it really aren’t such things as safe spaces particularly for those of us who are embodied in a way that is not completely in line with the majority right we’re constantly under threat.
What we can do though is encourage people at this sort of intersection of personal and social transformation to lean into vulnerability, to lean into the willingness to mess up the loneliness to be hurt because we all have been hurt so I thought maybe I’d share a reading of an invitation to brave space just to give your listeners
Mark Coffin: yeah absolutely that would be fantastic
Rev. Jennifer Bailey: what we start with but every dinner and it reads
Together we will create brave space
because there’s no such thing as a safe space
we exist in the real world
we all carry scars
and we have all caused wounds
In this space you seek to turn down the volume of the outside world
And amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere
We call each other two more truths and love
we have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow
we have the responsibility to examine what we think we know
we will not be perfect
this space will not be perfect
it will not always be what we wish it to be
But it will be our brave space together and
we will work on it side by side
Jennifer Bailey: So those are the words of Micky Scott Bey Jones and as it so eloquently puts you know ain’t no dinner table going to be perfect it’s gonna get messy and especially when you’re talking about sense issues it has the potential to be really really you know funky if not held right and so it’s really about setting the conditions of possibility for us to open up and imagine something different together recognizing that it’s not gonna be perfect
Mark Coffin: Thank you for sharing that. How often are you doing these dinners, and what are the kind of things that have have come out of them? I mean just listening to that poem, you’ve kind of set it up so that anything could happen. What kind of stuff does happen?
Lennon Flowers: Yeah so suppers are happening all the time and I was in, just last night was in our very first virtual supper also over a zoom call, and it can be done. It was a really powerful night in which seventy-four-year-old who lives alone with her two dogs called in from Orlando Florida; together with a 19 year old from New Orleans and folks in rural Michigan, rural Pennsylvania, from all over the place.
And this was a moment in which – talk about different forms of isolation – in the most physical literal sense. And isolation from one another and from each other’s stories. So often geographically, the divide between our rural and urban, and just the many different kind of cultures in which we walk in and live. We don’t have a lot of opportunities to hear each other. And so it was a really joyful night and also one of just deep and honest sharing. And I think it’s so simple right, the kind of resounding experience coming off of that evening was just like ‘I feel less alone’.
So it doesn’t have to be – through these experiences we’ve grown so afraid of each other – and I think you know mark to me at this point earlier that, we have a long history of expectation in institutions and that somebody else will come forward and fix something and so the number one thing that feels powerful is to have the agency and the ability to be a part of a community to do something yourself to be in relationship with one another without having to wait.
Real moments in which you hear yourself say something that hasn’t had a chance to be aired, some truth that doesn’t get told and moments in which you hear and witness somebody else’s truth and that totally contradicts or comes as a surprise from whatever you know, narratives you’ve placed on that person and stories and expectations you carried of them. And this is where healing happens.
And so there is that kind of weird and mixed space. Even as this grew around two tracks of conversations: healing and bridging suppers; oftentimes we will ask people after the fact “how was that?” and “which kind were you in?” And they have no idea because those who signed up for a healing conversation realized this enormity of difference in the lived experience of those around the table and came to a moment of appreciation of those journeys that carry them into the room. Healing suppers become bridging suppers, and the opposite. In bridging suppers you find moments of healing you know with stranger and with another.
Mark Coffin: hmm So how is it that these are organizing… I want to go to a supper, I go to your website, I go to a facebook page I sign up for a supper, is it any more complicated than that?
Lennon Flowers: Yeah, so it’s super super simple. People can sign up to join or to host and then we hope that they will sign up to host. Part of our role is to then equip them with tools and training to have the conversation that they’re seeking. And step one in any conversation with a new host is “close your eyes and imagine that you’re doing the dishes. What is the kind of evening that you just had?”
So all we have to do is map backwards from that. From everything like practical logistics of how you build a guest list, what are the template emails that you send to your friend and they send to their friends, and other others in your neighborhood or community to whom you can reach out.
Part of what we can do in places where we do hear from people in the same spot, then we can match them to one another for folks who are looking to join a supper to those who are looking to host.
But already we’ve heard from people in something like four hundred and fifty odd cities and towns across the U.S.. So the vast majority of those are from places that none of us have ever heard of and where we will hear from one person. But, I think part of what we’re able to do is to keep the barrier low enough that hosts feel able and what we look for people that are good hosts in life. Because it signals you know how to make people comfortable in space and so can bring them together with tools with discussion questions that take the conversation from a place that’s so often intellectual and heady and skimming a surface and uncomfortable, into your the practical ‘here’s how you sequence what happens when people walk through the door’.
And ‘oh it’s a good idea to leave a few things undone so that people have something to do with their hands as you weight for the rest of guests and to filter in. So there isn’t that kind of like awkward lull and stirring.’
What does it would like to really create comfortable spaces and then when you sit down, the process of introducing Brave Space together they’re creating those group agreements and kind of container space that we wish to establish for ourselves and then taking off you know with a question and the kinds of questions that aren’t asked in your everyday. It’s super easy
Mark Coffin: and you have Spotify playlists
Lennon Flowers: and we do have Spotify playlists.
Mark Coffin: I thought that so clever when I saw that I flagged them I haven’t listened to them yet but they’re on my ‘to listen to’ list so super cool
Lennon Flowers: any quality evening around a table requires a really good playlist
What the People’s Supper founders hope to achieve in the next ten years
Mark Coffin: so we’ve got a few minutes left I thought I’d just close by asking a similar question to question two the one you kind of asked your your volunteer house like what ten years from now, hopefully you’re not doing dishes but somewhere and thinking about what you’ve done with the people’s supper. Where are you guys going next and what do you want to want it to achieve?
Lennon Flowers: I haven’t fully processed this yet. But, yesterday morning I received an email from my father with whom I have a fairly estranged relationship.
It was a link to some article and some right-wing blog; and it was about why in this moment in time it didn’t matter to him – him, via the voice of this author – that there’s such vulgarity present and such you know just unmasked hate wandering the White House in the highest office in America.
And it was because – in his words – ‘that we were at war’, and we were in the culture of war. And I realized in that email that my father had placed me on the other side of a war. So my hope for the people supper is that we don’t have to do battle with one another. We have been battling in this country from its foundation. And it has pulled us apart and bodies haven’t lost to that battle. And so my hope through this is that – and I think you that back to so much of what we’ve talked about – that there’s this you know sense of arriving at a supper tired.
And tired of the way of having done things, and a knowledge a deep knowledge that we have to do differently, but that that different can not be a furthering of a long history of trying to sweep a history under the rug.
But it has to be honest and so that’s the simple bit of it for the People’s Supper. We will never be able to create healing spaces for every person in this country who needs healing, nor will we be able to convene every person who needs and desperately needs a radical act of bridging.
But I think to establish a proof point that some other way of being in dialogue and relationship with one another, to have that that proofpoint be visible, and to have tools that are available accessible and usable by people in their own communities. That’s my end goal. And if correcting my relationship with my father – it may seem like a far-off task but also one that I’m willing to continue to work towards.
Jennifer and Emily: Lennon mic drop.
Mark Coffin: Emily?
Emily May: I wonder if they’re gonna like look back at this time in history and look back not just that the people supper but of all of these sort of dinner or supper story projects that have like bubbled up there’s 20, 30, 40, I mean there’s so many of them, right?
And look back the same way that like we look back when like those first internet pioneers were charting this path for us to be able to connect with one another acrorss these divides, across these geographical divides across this information divides and I wonder if any people are gonna look back and be like remember when they like actually started talking to each other again over dinner?
By then they’ll be on like they’ll be on like dinner technology 3.0 you know technology 1.0 and will be perceived as like really old-school and how we perceive dinner technology you know so I I’m just eating it I’m seeing it.
Mark Coffin: Jennifer, it looks like you get the last word.
Rev. Jennifer Bailey: I’ll also tell a story. So last week Emily and i were at the gathering of spiritual innovators, people who were thinking about new ways to form community. Some of whom over dinner table. So, again we’re not the only game in town. There’s some rad folks doing this all around the country and internationally – recognizing that food has been a secret way we’ve gathered to be people for a long time.
But there was a moment where there were some challenges around racial stuff that was bubbling up in the group. And it was a moment of pause where people took three breaths and then they started speaking their truths. And all of a sudden some of the older women in the group started singing. And I could feel this really strong presence of my ancestors surrounding me. People picking cotton in fields in places like Arkansas and Mississippi Georgia coming along. And in that moment I feel like I got a taste of what collective liberation could look like, when people are brave enough to speak their truths and be held well in the midst of that. And it is not a coincidence that we started that gathering by reading Brave Space.
You know for all of the storms that are literally raging throughout our world right now. And for all of the bodies who are in the direct eye of that storm – particularly black and brown bodies. There is something about the power of seeing each other, and seeing each other as fully human. Once you have a taste of that experience and what it’s like to be free, and to be one’s full self, and be held well that I think can change the world. And I don’t say that lightly. I don’t know that one dinner is gonna save the world. But, I do think that ethos of leaning deeply into becoming more fully human together can.
And so my hope is that ten years from now, just as there was there was a movement to separate and divide us, there will have been this counter revolution of love. With people who are are doing the hard work to either restore or create anew – what our vision for community can look.
Lennon Flowers: How’s that for a mic drop?
Mark Coffin: You all know how to end a podcast. Well, you so much for taking the time to have what was not a light conversation, but a really important one, at least it felt meaningful for me to be allowed in on, and I’m very grateful that you took the time out of what I’m sure are crazy busy days and weeks to have it. So thank you so much
Lennon Flowers: And all you podcast listeners, check out thepeoplessupper.org for guides and tools to better conversation.
Mark Coffin: That’s this week’s episode of the Govern Yourself Accordingly podcast
Thank you so much for tuning in.
As always, you can find links to any of the articles, resources and books that were mentioned in the show by scrolling through the episode description, and show notes over at Springtide.NGO/GYA1. That’s for Govern Yourself Accordingly episode 1.
Govern Yourself Accordingly is a podcast produced by Springtide, and we are a Canadian Charity committed to helping listeners everywhere lead change through politics with your integrity intact. Find us at Springtide.NGO, facebook.com/springtideco; or on Twitter @SpringtideCO. You can find me on Twitter @MarkCoffin.
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