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CNN Coverage of ‘Coming to the Table’ Nets International Attention

Posted on May 21st, 2010

CNN’s May 20, 2010 coverage of the EMU/CJP project Coming to the Table has drawn national attention to a groundbreaking program centered around peacebuilding, reconciliation, and the legacy of slavery.

The CNN feature highlights the budding connection between family members Betty and Phoebe Kilby.

Betty and Phoebe Kilby
Betty (left) and Phoebe Kilby, part of Coming to the Table, an EMU/CJP program devoted to transforming the legacy of slavery. Read the CNN article…

Betty, an African American and author of “Wit Will and Walls” met Phoebe, a European American and the associate director for development for Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at EMU, in 2007 as the descendants of an enslaved/slaveholder family. They now travel the country as members of Coming to the Table (CTTT) telling their story.

CNN’s most shared story of the day

May 20 the CNN story was featured on the CNN home page for several hours and logged more than 600,000 hits. It was the most read, linked and shared story of the day on CNN.com, said Wayne Drash, author of the piece and reporter for CNN.

Online comments numbered nearly 2500 less than 48 hours after the original posting. The majority of discussion underscored the difficulty and importance of reconciliation.

Twitter came alive, too, with mentions of the unique program. One young woman tweeted that she found CTTT after meeting kin from the family that enslaved her great-great-grandmother. By mid-day she was one of dozens of new members of the program’s online community, which doubled in membership in just 24 hours.

And visitors to the CTTT website hit a historic high. The site logged 30 times more readers than the day before.

Story spreads across the globe

Interest in the program and the story of the Kilbys and Coming to the Table went global quickly.

Program Director Amy Potter Czajkowski
Program Director Amy Potter Czajkowski was interviewed for an upcoming Voice of America segment on Coming to the Table.

By mid-day, international broadcasting service Voice of America had interviewed Phoebe Kilby, CTTT Program Director Amy Potter Czajkowski, and CTTT Community Coordinator Susan Hutchison for a segment to be aired in Asia.

“This is a story that resonates in many cultures,” says Kilby. “It bridges racial, ethnic and religious divides. In the last day I’ve gotten so many positive e-mails, calls, and Facebook postings. I’m glad our story of racial reconciliation has touched so many.”

About Coming to the Table

Coming to the Table was created in 2005 to address the traumatic effects of slavery on individuals and communities. Initially the program focused on the stories and experiences of people linked by their ancestors’ enslaved-slaveholding relationship,but focus has since expanded to addressing historical harms in communities, a point Kilby is quick to emphasize.

“While our family histories provided a window through which we could connect, Betty and I are focusing on creating a new relationship now, a new legacy for the future,” she says.

The program’s continued focus on building community, making peace, and providing service to others are core values of the EMU community.

The name “Coming to the Table” is inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic March on Washington speech, in which he prayed that one day “…the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners… will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

About EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuliding

Coming to the Table was started at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, which is comprised of the Graduate Program in Conflict Transformation and the Practice and Training Institute, which houses the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, Seminars for Trauma Awareness and Resilience and other intensive training, program, and partnership opportunities in peacebuilding.

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