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Liberty Lights: Countering flames of incivility and hate with the art of conversation

Liberty Lights offers free training on the art of holding powerful conversations to members of faith-based institutions, professional groups, nonprofits, schools and neighborhood organizations. Linda S. Wallace, a multicultural communications specialist and author of the blog, Cultural IQ (www.theculturalcoach.typepad.com), has launched a new initiative that provides free, safe and easy-to-use-toolkits to help everyday people powerfully combat incidents of hate, prejudice and incivility.

 
 Linda S. Wallace

Liberty Lights offers free training on the art of holding powerful conversations to members of faith-based institutions, professional groups, nonprofits, schools and neighborhood organizations.

“Hate is an emergency. Its dangerous flames put innocent lives at risks, just like wildfires, “said Wallace, a journalist-turned-multicultural-communications specialist, who contributes frequently to the New Tri-State Defender.

  “Communities must create a smart, organized response. Many wonderful organizations have perfected the art of bringing like-minded people together. This organizes citizen first-responders to communicate with haters in public places and to create conversations that can transform people and communities.”

The First Responder Toolkit was developed over the past five years by an eclectic team of coaches from the far right and the far left who assisted Wallace as she was writing The Cultural Coach, a self-syndicated newspaper column that allowed readers to ask honest, frank questions about diversity.

“The column received lots of warm support, as well as numerous emails from diversity skeptics. Yet everyone who wrote me opened my eyes in some way. I realized that most fear-based dialogs can be transformed into powerful conversations, if we have the right tools,” said Wallace.

“Liberty Lights will have a second charge as well: illuminate facts and research and help communities engage in evidence-based decision-making, rather than debates that are informed by biases, unsubstantiated beliefs and disinformation.”

While the seeds of Liberty Lights were planted while she lived in Houston, Wallace said the program was nurtured and developed by a Memphis nonprofit called Making a Difference in Memphis (MDM), which offers education to everyday citizens who seek to improve the city.

MDM director Carrie Brooks said the purpose of the Volunteer Leadership Development Institute is to empower volunteer participants through an adult learning and development curriculum that promotes education for development.

“This kind of education involves more than just teaching a particular skill or presenting new information, Brooks said. “It requires participants to examine who they are as learners, how they learn, think, work and make decisions. They then apply their learning to their projects and issues they want to impact. The content and process of MDM enables participants to mobilize resources to resolve a problem, reach their goals, and realize their visions.”

There is no cost to participants. Participants, however, must commit their time and complete a self-directed project for implementation in the community. Nominations for the next class are now being accepted. For more information, visit http://www.makingadifferenceinmemphis.org.


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