Hungry for food, learning? Try this event

Next Monday, all of us will pause to remember the late Martin Luther King, Jr., his achievements and his unfortunate, untimely assassination.
We will honor him, whether we were alive or not even born yet at the time of his death. I’m fortunate to be able to recall those early days, when things were finally beginning to heat up after a long time of simmering in Alabama.
Contrary to common belief, Rosa Parks wasn’t the first black person to challenge segregation on a public bus — there had been at least a half-dozen before her. But behind-the-scenes efforts to end that longtime practice were at work in Montgomery, where black leadership decided — wisely, it turned out — that she was the best candidate because her story wasn’t a “cause”: She was just a very tired day worker at the end of many hours on her feet, and when the “Whites Only” front of her homebound bus was filled, all she was “resisting” was having to stand some more so the next white person to board could have her seat. From such little acts, big changes may arise.
I was fortunate, all those years ago, to be teaching religious school for a very social-action-oriented congregation in a moneyed Chicago suburb. And as my students were teenagers, I was invited to sit in while members began to work on their next project: taking a bus to Selma — then at the heart of resistance and protest on both sides of the color line. I could not afford to go myself, with a young social worker husband on a low salary and a very young child at home. But I will never forget that dinner as long as I live.
That group did go to Selma, while here in Dallas the late, beloved Rabbi Levi Olan marched with MLK himself. We feel the results of their actions, and those of so many others, every day since, and once a year, we formally remember …
Many activities honor MLK’s achievements on the holiday celebrated nationally on the Monday nearest his birth (Jan. 15, 1929). Among the parades and banquets, there’s a special event I particularly like: It’s the speech contest featuring young black students who emulate and interpret in their own varied ways both the fiery oratory and the deeply-felt sentiments of Martin Luther King, Jr. But the one I enjoy and appreciate most is the Dallas Dinner Table, held every year on the evening of MLK Day. Founded in 1999, it’s a local, independent nonprofit that brings together people representing many races, religions and ethnicities in a safe situation for open communication. Alumni of Leadership Dallas had the idea that talking together over a shared meal might have the possibility to encourage a sharing of life perspectives as well.
And they were right! My late husband and I attended one of the first year’s Dinner Table events, held in the private home of a couple who happened to be both black and gay, its free-wheeling discussion guided only by a short list of some matters we might like to consider. Try to imagine the conversation of that long-ago evening! We, like many other first-timers, were hooked; the two of us didn’t miss many dinners after that, and I’ve continued to go on my own since Fred’s passing.
Most Dinner Tables have moved now from individual homes to larger public venues, but the drill is the same: You sign up, tell how far you’re willing to travel, and soon get an assignment for a group guaranteed to include a variety of people, with a moderator to keep the discussion moving on-track.
It’s surely too late now for this year’s sign-ups, but please mark your calendar for 2019. Want more details? Just Google “Dallas Dinner Table” and read all about it. Then go — hungry for food and learning. You will receive both, in no small amounts, at absolutely no charge, while honoring a great man’s dream.

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