Jennifer Bailey | 2018 MAKERS Conference
Jennifer Bailey, Executive Director, Faith Matters Network, on building community through better conversations
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Bailey.
JENNIFER BAILEY: America was never America to me, yet this oath I swear-- America will be, Langston Hughes.
I first learned how to raise my voice at my Grandma Vera's house on the South Side of Chicago. Like so many women of her generation, women born in the Great Depression, she and her family followed the North Star-- from Hughes, Arkansas to Chicago-- in search of a better life.
It was at her table with Miss Edith, and Miss Yvonne, and Auntie Belinda-- over pots of collard greens and black-eyed peas-- that I learned who my people were.
You see, these were working class women-- women, who for a living, lifted people as homemakers. Women who most people rendered invisible. But at the table over games of spades there was truth-telling. Truth-telling about what to do when that man touches you the wrong way at church. Truth-telling about men whose fists too often met jaws. Truth-telling and seeing one another in a society that rendered them invisible.
It was at that table that I learned, as a little black girl, that I had a voice, that I had a story that was worthy of not only being told but heard. And it was that table I had in mind when I called my friend Lennon in the fall of 2016, two weeks after the election, wondering how we as women could build new tables for people to be seen and heard, not because of what they do-- no-- but because of who they are.
That launched the People's Supper-- an alliance of a motley crew of a faith organization, a grief organization, and a radical feminist anti-harassment organization-- unexpected bedfellows-- to come together to think about how we might create a table where all belong. So over the past year, we've been hosting conversations of healing spaces for those who aren't quite ready to bridge with difference yet, and bridging spaces-- spaces I like to call the borderlands-- spaces of border crossing, where we can get to see and know one another in the fullness of who we are.
We've hosted over 1,000 of those dinners in the last year, in 124 cities and towns across the United States. Tonight, it's your turn to join the movement. It's your turn to get to know each other in a deep, heartfelt way.
So what we're going to do-- are y'all excited?
Come on. For Grandma Vera and them, are you excited?
So we invite you to join us for dinner next door, at the world famous Hollywood Palladium. You're going to exit this main entrance, and the MAKERS staff will show you on your way.
We have a special guest chef, Nancy Silverton, who is here. I hear that she won the James Beard Award in 2014. I'm a "Top Chef" fan, so I know what that means. That means she's real, real good, y'all.
And the invitation for you tonight is to strip off whatever it is you might have been carrying and lean in to sharing your stories. Thank you so much.