WILMINGTON, N.C. — The typical hot topics most people avoid around the holidays – such as race, religion and politics — are exactly what a group of people in Wilmington are specifically coming together to talk about.
What You Need To Know
Our Stories brings people from different generations and life experiences together to discuss difficult topics
The purpose is sharing how various backgrounds can affect perception and knowledge
The group met virtually for two hours each week over a six-week period
Our Stories has groups that meet all across the state as people willingly put themselves in what might be considered an uncomfortable position to talk about their life experiences – specifically racial ones.
“I believe, this is where it begins, bringing people together and talking real talk,” said Anne Conlan, a participant in the program. “Breaking down the barriers and asking, 'What was it like for you growing up? Here's what it was like for me.'”
After going through a group himself, Allen Quigley decided to bring this program to Wilmington, where he became a facilitator for a group of his own. As a participant, the experience allowed him to connect with others and gain a better understanding of how different backgrounds can shape a person's current outlook.
“We got really close,” Quigley said. “We talk about everything. We don't agree on everything, but we can tell each other we disagree and don't take it personally.”
As a facilitator, Quigley was more able to sit back and observe while the group shared their stories in a judgment-free zone.
“We all listened to each other's stories, and we did not try to correct them, but we were interested in their stories, and that was the whole purpose — to come tell our stories and not be judged by it,” said Robert Nekirk, a participant in the program.
“I'm not sure we're going to change anybody's mind right away,” Quigley said. “I think we're here to educate and make them aware.”
Each participant noted how much they learned from each other in such a short amount of time and how much it opened their eyes to people's takes on similar situations.
“We could be in the same situation, but your perception and my perception are two different things, and it helps to get a better understanding of why you look at it one way, and I look at it another way,” said Danyce Dicks, a participant in the program.
Quigley said in order for this to be a successful program, though, they need more participants from a multitude of generations and backgrounds.
“We have to get other people with other radically different perspectives in the group if we're going to try to understand one another,” said Jewel Mandeville, a participant in the program. “I want to see how big this can grow because I think it has great potential.”