It is unusual to find black and white people discussing issues of the heart without quarrelling because of our painful history. Nonetheless, Consciousness Café has managed to create a space where a group of strangers are guided to express themselves freely on matters affecting them.
The Café was started a few years ago by two women who saw a need to talk about racial, spiritual, cultural and political issues. The motivation to start the project came from their personal experiences; they were judged and marginalised because of who they were. They wanted the space to be authentic, leading them to create the Café.
The aim is to host transformative dialogues to improve how we communicate and bridge the gap between races. What happened during the struggles and uprisings has created resentment and anger, but given the opportunity to talk and listen to others, we can change a lot of the views we have about one another.
The audience is given a chance to introduce themselves to each other, and then to communicate freely and honestly. Participants are asked to come up with topics they feel they need to discuss. When I attended, the two topics that were chosen were language prejudice and colonialism.
The dialogue was emotional, as people had the opportunity to openly discuss their feelings and struggles. We sometimes judge people without knowing who they really are, and do not give them the chance to express themselves. The talk session helped everyone to understand the pain of people who have been victimised or marginalised.
When asked what our dreams would be if we were given a chance to change the narrative, some people said they would like to see a free society with equal opportunities. Others said they would like to fight the same fight as a collective — not as a race struggle, but as an “everyone struggle”.
“There used to be bridge builders in society, people who would gather different races to socialise and work together,” said one of the audience members. “However, either those people died or are tired, people like Nelson Mandela and others. I would love to have that back.”
The last session of the dialogue was about accountability, where we sat in a group or alone to reflect on what we spoke about, and come up with ways to make a difference. We were asked to consider who we would speak to about the change we experienced during the session, and when we intended starting some new dialogues.
“If this session has touched one person, then our work is done. Because that individual knows another individual, then change will begin,” said the facilitators.
If you feel the need to talk and be heard then be a part of Consciousness Café, on everyday at 11am at the Yellowwood Terrace (Monument), with the final session this Saturday 8 July.
By Nelly Zulu