Coming to the Table South Florida was formed last year and now has around three dozen members. Its next online meeting is at 3 p.m. Sunday.
WEST PALM BEACH — Talking about racism can be hard.
The local chapter of a national organization that promotes racial equity is aiming to make it easier.
Coming To The Table South Florida was formed in October with the idea of creating a space "to discuss issues that are impacting the races" in a respectful manner that’s free of judgment, according to Dr. Fartun Mohamud, a West Palm Beach-based mental-health counselor who serves as the group’s facilitator.
What started as a small gathering has morphed into 36 members — and growing — as issues of police brutality and systemic racism have roiled the country following the killing of George Floyd on May 25 by Minneapolis police.
The group began by assembling in person, but its monthly meetings have shifted to Zoom since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. The next scheduled meeting will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Because of the nature of the discussions and to maintain decorum, those interested in taking part are asked to first register.
The South Florida chapter is one of around three dozen affiliated with the national Coming to the Table (CTTT) organization based in Harrisonburg, Va. It was founded by descendants of slave owners and enslaved people, according to the group’s website.
"We are there to support each other," said Mohamud, a West Palm Beach resident. "Not to judge or to change each other, but allow a space for people to speak and people to hear. Through that, healing occurs, conversations go deeper and friendships are formed."
Sunday’s topic, Mohamud said, will center on the history of the Black community in Palm Beach County "to see what we can learn from that."
Kate Renchin, a retiree who lives in Wellington, said she joined the local CTTT group after a couple of her friends who were members called her and told her, "You’ve got to do this."
Renchin said she originally viewed meetings as more of a social affair but members began "pushing for action . . . and seeing what we could do to bring about change . . . even before George Floyd, before the virus."
Among their initiatives were the development of a plan to increase participation in the U.S. census and, before the pandemic struck, a proposed outreach and education event at the Wellington library.
Sunday meetings have included a discussion of "The Water Dancer" by author Ta-Nihisi Coates and a conversation about The New York Times’ The 1619 Project, which takes a fresh look at the legacy of slavery in the United States. "White Fragility", a 2018 book by the sociologist Robin DiAngelo, is on deck.
But, Renchin said, the most powerful dialogue often comes among the members. The local chapter’s makeup includes a mix of Black and white people. There’s a Somalian, a Jamaican and a few folks from a local Jewish organization take part. The group leans female, but there’s a push to bring in more men.
Meetings can get emotional, but civility is a constant and the gatherings take the form, Renchin said, of "a mutual exploration ... it’s a wonderful journey taken together."
"We know racism has been an issue for 401 years in this country," said Renchin, referring to the arrival of the first African slaves in the British colony of Virginia in 1619. "And I think this is a way of getting at it in a positive way."
Listen to today's top stories from The Palm Beach Post: