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Wednesday, 26 April 2017 14:00

Folkmoot's Cultural Conversations: A more equitable community

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Over the course of the six Cultural Conversations sessions I participated in at Folkmoot, our diverse little group — sitting in one big circle — learned a lot about ourselves, and each other.

We made connections by sharing personal experiences and discovered how we define ourselves. We explored race and ethnicity by examining cultural identity and cultural conflict. We looked at cultural bias in Western North Carolina by discussing hate groups. We investigated inequity and assessed intersectionality by asking ourselves, and each other, the tough questions. 

Armed with that newfound knowledge, we entered facilitator Angela Dove’s final class session prepared to learn how to use it. 

Now, knowledge for the sake of knowledge is all well and good, but that was never the intent of this program. 

Perhaps 11th century French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux put it best when he said, “There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.”

To serve is to love, thus to serve one’s community is to love one’s community — ask any elected official or public servant or non-prof exec about that one. 

So as we begin walking the walk, after talking the talk, we consider the ways in which you and I can move forward to fulfill one of the program’s goals, which is to help make Western North Carolina the best place to live, work and raise a family. 

The most important thing to consider is that when cultural conflict arises in our community, it can be overcome. 

Lunch-counter sit-ins and suffrage marches don’t really take place anymore, because those issues have been surmounted, but activism is still needed and takes place on a far more personal level than ever before. 

Organizing a Cultural Conversations-style discussion group among friends or co-workers might be your best bet in getting started. Talking to banks about loan policies, or aldermen about budgetary priorities is another great move. In group settings, volunteering with a school, a church or a political group — like one of the Haywood Democratic, Republican or Libertarian organizations — is also a good idea.

As you and I move about this community, walking in many different worlds, we need to constantly be asking ourselves if the policies, procedures, and community participation of banks, bureaucracies, corporations, foundations, political parties and news outlets are equitable, inclusive and fair. 

Although the first Cultural Conversations program at Folkmoot is now over, Folkmoot Executive Director Angie Schwab hopes to continue with new classes, eventually resulting in hundreds of cultural ambassadors like me and my classmates embedded in the community, talking the talk and walking the walk towards a more equitable community. 


Will you be one of them?

This is the final installment in a series chronicling SMN Staff Writer Cory Vaillancourt’s participation in Folkmoot’s inaugural Cultural Conversations program. Check back for wrap-up coverage of the Cultural Conversations sessions, featuring interviews, insights, and more. For more information about Folkmoot, visit

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