Talking about racism

BAR HARBOR — Indivisible MDI presents a program called “Tell Me the Truth,” on Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m., a conversation between Shay Stewart-Bouley and Debbie Irving, at Mount Desert Island High School. Admission is by donation.

These two ladies’ work focuses on bringing honest awareness about racism to organizations, individuals, corporations and the forefront of social conversation.

Stewart-Bouley, a native of Chicago, is the author and host of the blog Black Girl in Maine and works as the executive director of Community Change, Inc based in Boston. In 2002, she moved to Maine, “not by choice,” and has worked to find and establish her voice in one of the whitest states in the country over the last 16 years.

“I have no illusions,” said Stewart-Bouley. “I, myself, am not going to move any needles. I see myself planting seeds of change.”

Irving is the author of a book called “Waking up White” and works as a racial justice educator with organizations, churches and individuals.

“There’s a thirst right now for [understanding] how racism operates,” said Irving. “The same culture that supports racism supports divisiveness and otherness.”

Their first meeting was in 2014, on stage. Irving had just released her book and asked Stewart-Bouley to assist her in promoting it.

“I was surprised with how bold she was, that was really fresh and energizing,” said Irving about Stewart-Bouley. “She was surprised that I was not quivering in my shoes. It’s never easy but Shay is as willing as I am. I don’t think white people see black and brown people bringing their full selves [into conversation] in the name of self preservation.”

Since that first meeting, the two have had the difficult conversation about racism about a half dozen times in front of audiences.

“Turns out there’s a real synergy here,” said Stewart-Bouley. “It’s hard enough for white people to talk to each other about race, let alone cross-racial [conversation].”

Conversation is a way humans think together, Irving pointed out, using a quote she heard. These public conversations are meant to be a little uncomfortable in order to draw people out from the common fears that keep them isolated in their own racial groups.

During the event, Stewart-Bouley and Irving will offer suggestions for participants to create new habits.

“It’s been a good experience,” said Stewart-Bouley. “It’s been good to see people who are hungry for this information … I think in that way, there’s a lot more beneath the surface. They want to have the conversation.”

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Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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