Talk to Me Civil, which will be held at East End Cooperative Ministry in East Liberty on Thu., Feb. 27, will allow participants to “flex [their] conversational muscle and practice listening skills, while meeting neighbors who also want to elevate their conversations,” according to the press release.
The event was conceptualized by Jourdan Hicks, a community correspondent at PublicSource, with assistance from Development Director Chrystal Walsh and Director of Loyalty Programs Jennie Ewing.
According to Hicks, the idea came to her when she noticed a trend of one group of people asking larger questions of another group, often without receiving constructive answers in return.
“I felt like what I was seeing was a void in space where people could have safe, honest conversations — conversation that was compassionate, and conversation that wasn’t divisive,” she said. “Why don’t we take the lead as a nonprofit news organization … and create that space? Why don’t we bring together some of our neighbors and community partners … to have discussions that matter and ask the questions that we’re afraid to ask?”
Talk to Me Civil will foster a dialogue about the tenets of positive civil discourse and discuss how identity shapes communication. Mainly, it will aim to address the question of how to have good conversation.
“Discussion isn’t always about persuasion, but sometimes about sharing ideas,” Hicks said. “We all have the power and the spirit to have the conversation that we need to have.”
The panel will consist of city residents B. DeNeice Welch, pastor at Bidwell Street United Presbyterian Church, and Calum Matheson, a professor in the communications department at the University of Pittsburgh. Hicks said that the event will also be infused with activities that will allow the attendees to engage with one another in order to “see how achievable good discourse is.”
Hicks notes that conversation and communication isn’t easy, and it isn’t supposed to be.
“When it comes to having a conversation, we all have to be willing to unlearn some of the things that we picked up over the years or have be taught over the years about how to speak to people, who to listen to, what groups of people or people with specific titles we should listen to more,” she said.
According to Hicks, fear is usually what inhibits individuals from engaging in civil discourse with others.
“People want to have conversations, people want to fix issues, people want to solve problems, but they don’t know how to have the conversation because they don’t want to be offensive, or they don’t want to get cancelled,” she said. “We just want to mitigate that and take some of the fear away from having the conversation and talking to people and just show people that it’s possible to have that conversation — and here’s how.”
The Better Talk series will feature more events similar to Talk to Me Civil, which will focus on subject matters that the community often wrestles with. While no date has been set for future sessions, Hicks said there are plans to host another later in the spring.
Tickets for Talk to Me Civil are $15. Scholarships can be requested by contacted firstname.lastname@example.org. The event will be held in the Great Hall from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m at East End Cooperative Ministry, 6140 Station St., East Liberty.