So what exactly is Conscious Conversation? Well, let me first provide some context on how the idea came about. In December 2014, I left the DC/Baltimore area to start a new career in Nashville. After spending about six months interacting with the local Nashville community in various ways, I realized that a few things were missing. First, I didn't see many opportunities for young, progressive, urban professionals to connect in a group setting and network in an intentional manner. Second, I also didn't see many opportunities for this group to come together and discuss the many issues that are discussed in smaller circles. Third, I observed the many talented people in this group working to inspire and influence change in the community, yet many of them were unknown to each other. By the end of 2015, I decided to embrace the well-known mantra, "be the change you wish to see in the world," and focused on creating a solution to the problem
After many discussions, and with the encouragement of friends, I organized the first event, Conscious Conversation: Is Gentrification Really A Bad Thing?, at the end of February earlier this year. The goal was to commemorate Black History Month and host a community discussion on a topic that impacted the community in an adverse way. I'm still not sure where I got the idea to highlight gentrification, but it ended up being the best initial approach and sparked a bit of controversy (which is not always a bad thing). The event was held in the community center of my apartment complex and was not really marketed in a widespread manner. Truthfully, I doubted that people would be interested in the concept and only expected less than 20 people to attend. However, to my surprise, there were over 60 attendees, which I largely credit to the local celebrity status of the panelists with expertise in real estate development and affordable housing (Brian Sexton, DJ. Wootson, and Tifinie Capehart). It was a great conversation with a very diverse audience, and led to real dialogue on the issue at hand.
The second event, Conscious Conversation: How Does Gentrification Impact Local Youth?, was held in late-April at the Art History Lifestyle Lounge and Art a Gallery on Historic Jefferson Street. The panelists (Christiane Buggs, Eric Capehart, Jackson Miller, and Lagra Newman) provided great insights on education and mentoring in relation to the topic, and the audience was very engaged in the discussion. After the second Conscious Conversation, it became evident to me that something real was happening and that the energy needed to lead to collective action.
So far, the response to Conscious Conversation has been great. I believe it was something the community had been waiting for. The success so far wouldn't be possible with support from the community and our sponsors (Nashville Social Butterfly, Kwanzaa Nashville, Molette Investment Services, and Knowledge Bank Nashville). A special thanks goes to Jarrett Strickland for his efforts to support and expand the initial vision. Our focus is to Connect the community, Converse on the issues that plague the community, and Create strategies to act on addressing the issues. In addition, the events will allow us to highlight different people and organizations doing impactful work in the community. The third event, Conscious Conversation: Evaluating the Racial Wealth Gap, will be held in late June, so be on the lookout for event details.
Check us out online (consciousconversation.co), on Facebook (facebook.com/groups/consciousconvo), or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We want you to be apart of the Conscious Conversation movement! #consciousconvo