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A Long Talk

An open and honest discussion designed to explore and give voice to the uncomfortable truth that is our shared history. It is an ongoing conversation that serves as a catalyst for creating a culture of individual and collective anti-racism activism.

A sign explaining that black lives matter doesn't mean that only black lives matter

Two CPASS graduate students attended a virtual experience titled A Long Talk About the Uncomfortable Truth. The format featured a three-day course focusing on discussions about race and diversity. The purpose of the session is to erase racism and dismantle systematic oppression in America. 


CPASS faculty member Kristen Dieffenbach and third year doctoral student Christina Villalon recently attended the national Project Play Summit where they participated in a mini version of A Long Talk. They secured two spots for CPASS students and offered them to Marla Gladstone and Michael Ball. 

A Long Talk is an anti-racism experience designed to expose participants to a level of truth about the duration, violence and intentionality of the systems of oppression which have existed in America since its inception. The mission is to energize, activate and empower allies in the pursuit of our shared purpose by engaging in an ongoing conversation focused on truth, understanding and problem solving, leading to individual and cooperative activism. 

According to Michael, people from all walks of life and from around the country participated in the sessions. The vast majority were White. The presentations approached the discussion from a psychological perspective. 

The Process

The framework features an open and honest discussion designed to explore and give voice to the uncomfortable truth that is our shared history. It is an ongoing conversation that serves as a catalyst for creating a culture of individual and collective anti-racism activism. 

The experience is a combination of prework, followed by three days of 90-minute virtual workshops lead by a team of qualified facilitators. Participants view a multi-media collection of content reflecting on the truth about the racist history of the United States and the impact it has had on society. The program included movies, documentaries and articles with follow up worksheets. 

The virtual workshops involve facilitators and participants who work in large and small group settings to engage in reflective conversations. Participants are asked to listen, view and respond in real time. Day one focused on unpacking your truth; day two looked at finding your voice and day three highlighted activating your activism. 

Marla and Michael share their thoughts on the workshop

The program was impactful considering my passion for coaching basketball and understanding the diversity that exists in the sport. – Michael Ball

We learned about historical references and how certain political figures such as Abraham Lincoln are shown in a particular light currently. However, when you look back at direct quotes these men actually said it can be seen how truly racist they actually were. – Marla Gladstone

White people believe we're behaving better now than in previous generations because there is no more slavery, lynching, etc. However, there is still a clear advantage that all White people have over someone who is Black, that we are taking advantage of. So, there is still a hierarchy that exists in this nation that is not being addressed. – MB

The seminar facilitators created a courageous environment where many people shared openly with each other on the topic of social inequality. We were put into role playing groups with scenarios where a partner was to start a conversation with a racist comment and it was up to the anti-racist partner to ask questions to challenge the first partner. Some people said in that role play they found it easier to play the part of the close minded racist rather than finding ways to challenge the thinking the way the anti-racist partner had to do within the activity. – MG

The purpose of this workshop is to help individuals find the ability and confidence to have these uncomfortable conversations about race and the social injustice happening right now. Being able to face our own fears about the impact that these conversations could have on our lives is necessary to help an entire community that hasn't been heard. – MB

We watched a documentary about a person with family connections to a former slave plantation owner. That person read documents about how property was transferred and how that separated family history ‘fiction’ from reality. Once he understood the documents, he realized that it was the reverse of what he had been told his entire life. It’s natural that we don’t question the stories we’re told. It can be very uncomfortable truths to swallow. His family had a story about how they had hundreds of slaves and so when slavery ended all of slaves stayed but one. The man did further research he uncovered the story was, in fact, not true. The family didn't have hundreds of slaves and once slavery ended all the slaves left except for one slave. Family folklore was a big part of that story. The man questioned the stories he was told even though it can be uncomfortable to deal with. – MG

We were asked to watch an interview with James Baldwin, an activist for the Black and LGBT community. He explained the fact that Black people were integrated into American society to help the White people prove progress, how there was a structure created, specifically with criminal justice, that is not looking to protect Black people or other POC, but to protect white people's property. – MB

We can say how things were racist before, but it’s still a racist society now. Black people are sometimes very limited in the types of careers pursued such as sports and entertainment. We were given a playlist of music to listen to from the workshop. These are songs many of us have heard before but I have to say after the workshop the songs are hitting very differently. The songs are from all different decades and are still very relevant now. – MG

During the third day we talked about the challenges of confronting racism. Challenges include talking within our families and the trend toward political correctness. We need a voice to talk about it and we must choose battles wisely. Some people will never change their minds, so we must learn to be okay with letting it go. – MB

It can be a waste of energy to go against people who won’t or aren't interested in changing their minds. – MG

In terms of things I am planning to do going forward I have been including discussions of race in my classes prior to the George Floyd and racial unrest incidents this summer. I will continue to do similar lessons going forward. As a basketball coach, race is something I need to be aware of as it a huge part of my sport. It's my job as a coach to understand the experiences my players may be having and help them through obstacles they may experience. I plan to continue to make these conversations more common in real life. – MG

I’m certified to teach and will have these conversations in my classrooms. I’ll include discussions to shine the light to help students have a better understanding, values and ideals to take beyond sports and classroom. – MB

I encourage bringing people together to interact with each other in sport. Giving people opportunities to think differently about race is critical. It is important to be a coach who is open minded about diversity in sport. –MG

Organizers of A Long Talk report that they have received extensive positive feedback from past participants and scheduled an additional session on Nov. 10-12.

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