The event Sheryl Ferguson wants all of Kansas City to attend isn’t happening until later this month.
But she’s already set up some strict rules because she doesn’t want anyone there being accused of being a “Karen,” the unkind label for a white woman caught acting on social media, usually towards a black one.
Ferguson hosts a public forum where people can talk about race — “anything people are too afraid to talk about,” the flyer says.
No question will be off limits, no question is too derogatory or inappropriate to ask, Ferguson said.
The Kansas City activist, an organizer with It’s time 4 Justicedesigns a safe space to talk about issues that make many people uncomfortable.
Safe space in this case means that no participants are photographed or shown on the livestream without their permission.
Safe space means people can ask questions anonymously, or at the microphones if they want to.
Safe space means you won’t be judged by what you say.
“I’m very aware of the cancellation culture,” Ferguson said. “I am very well aware of Karen syndrome. And I don’t want this event to make people feel like it’s going to be that kind of thing again.
“While the program is going on, we don’t have any questions for you to ask, which makes you worry that you said something too racist.”
Ferguson is inspired by Emmanuel Acho, creator and author of the video series and bestseller “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.” In the videos, Acho has one-on-one “awkward conversations” about race and racism with famous people and some non-celebrities.
Last year, he sat down with officers from the Petaluma, California, Police Department to discuss police downgrading and police responsibility in high-profile deaths of black people killed by police. That video has almost 3 million views on YouTube†
Ferguson, who is a critic of the Kansas City Police Department and his relationship with the city’s black community, has given a lot of thought to that video after watching it.
Then she also heard a conversation on a local radio talk show about whether white parents should have the same conversation black parents had with their children about dealing with the police.
Inspired by both, and the national unrest sparked by the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, she decided it was time to invite Kansas Citians to talk about race, “to peel off the mask to to make it authentic and true. †
A diverse group of speakers
The forum will take place from 4-6:30 PM on July 23 at Community Christian Church, 4601 Main St., Kansas City, co-sponsored by the social justice group More2.
Ferguson gathers speakers from different communities around Kansas City – Black, Asian, Hispanic.
“It’s mostly people who can share stories about their experiences of racism in their lives,” she said. “There is no one without a story behind it.”
She expects the “false story of black-on-black crime” to be a hot topic, and “we already have an idea how to answer that,” she said.
She also anticipates questions about cultural appropriation, “especially when it’s a situation where white women get braids, and it’s normally something that’s only expected in black culture,” she said.
She’s ready to have that conversation, too.
“The truth is, I don’t think that’s cultural appropriation at all,” she said. “They choose to make their hair more beautiful, just like us. † † it’s not a monolith where only one person can have it, or one race.
“Honestly we are all one race and that is human.”