By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Presented by the Ralph Ellison Foundation, a public forum themed “Listening Beyond Division” will be held on Thursday, August 11. The event will be take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Paramount Room, 701 W. Sheridan, in Oklahoma City.
The event will be held as part of the Foundation’s “In the Light Bulb Room” discussion series, based on the Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man. The story is about a young, college-educated black man seeking to find his own identity, while struggling amidst a racially divided society.
Told in a first-person narrative, Invisible Man follows the narrator’s physical and mental adventure from ignorance to awareness — or, according to the author, “from Purpose to Passion to Perception”.
The storyteller hot-wires his basement refuge with 1,369 light bulbs, which becomes a place of reflection, healing and illumination revealing the truths about himself and society.
“In Ellison’s spirit, and through engaging with his work and legacy, we hope to create a similar zone of free exploration, multicultural good will, and open conversation as we engage with the issues of our own time,” said John Selvidge, Communications Director with the Ralph Ellison Foundation.
According to organizers, the “Listening Beyond Division,” forum will be a non-partisan program that will focus on pressing national and local issues, which have surfaced during this election cycle and as a result of recent tragic events.
“This election cycle has been filled with polarizing rhetoric about pressing national problems, particularly with regard to race in America, and recent tragic events have highlighted attitudes of increasing division,” said Selvidge.
During the panel discussion participants will be asked to consider their own personal concerns and listen to those of others with the aim of moving the conversation beyond politics.
“This event will not be an evening to advance partisan agenda or endorse candidates; instead, it will present an opportunity to listen and understand the hopes and fears of our neighbors, open ourselves to multiple perspectives, and acknowledge our shared humanity in the name of a greater sense of community in OKC,” said Rabbi Vered Harris of the Temple B’nai Israel.
Guest speakers include Dr. Belinda Biscoe, Associate Vice President for Outreach at the University of Oklahoma, The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, and Ann Thompson, Executive Director of Oklahoma Humanities.
Organizers say the panel-based evening will be followed by small group discussions, presenting an opportunity “to listen and understand the opinions and ideas of others, to hear multiple perspectives, and acknowledge shared humanity in the name of a greater sense of community in Oklahoma City.”
“The importance of events like this is to educate the public and to be non-partisan so that people can make informed decisions about issues that pertain to the upcoming election”, Tabbernee said.
The Ralph Ellison Foundation is partnering with the Temple B’nai Israel, the Respect Diversity Foundation, East Sixth Street Christian Church, and the Oklahoma Conference of Churches in presenting this event.
Founded in Oklahoma City in 2014 the Ralph Ellison Foundation is committed to highlighting the accomplishments of the organization’s namesake, acclaimed author Ralph Ellison, and to empowering the lives of others through his legacy in the areas of literacy, music, and the arts.
For more information, visit the website.