This is a time of crisis in our country. Not only are we experiencing a worldwide pandemic which is exposing serious inequities in our health care system, but we are once again witnessing racial injustice in our policing and justice systems.

With the murder of yet another black man, George Floyd, we are confronted with the tragic toll of inequity in our society. It has led to protests, riots and fear.

In spite of the unrest and uncertainty, this is a time for opportunity. It all starts with conversation — the opportunity to sit with one another and share, honestly and deeply, the experience of our individual and collective lives. Dialogue is where understanding materializes, relationships form, and people are empowered to do the work that will contribute to justice for all.

The Big Conversation Partners for Dismantling Racism and Privilege in Southern Maryland have worked to create a space where honest and open conversations can transpire between diverse community members. In previous Big Conversations we have examined the impact of racism and privilege in our individual lives and acknowledge the resultant systemic disparities such as in our public school systems. We have also looked at mass incarceration of African Americans in our justice system. We have offered workshops on bias.

These conversations can lead to realization, acknowledgement and understanding of the realities of life in America in the 21st century. Acknowledging institutional racism is the first step to dismantling it, and that is where the opportunity lies in ourselves and in our community. By connecting people, policy and history, we can illuminate structural racism that permeates our institutions. We can begin to turn the pain and frustration of hundreds of years of oppression into a more just future for everyone. Conversations can lead to change in ourselves and our community. These and similar conversations over the past 10 years have contributed to community awareness and concrete changes in policy.

The next community-wide Big Conversation, “Many Wounds to Heal: Health Care (In)Equity,” has been rescheduled for Sunday, Sept. 13. Due to the ongoing pandemic, plans are to offer the event in person at Middleham and St. Peter’s Parish in Lusby, and as a livestreamed event.

It will address inequities in health care that results in worsening health and decreased life expectancy of African Americans and people of color. This program is supported in part by a grant from Maryland Humanities. In the coming weeks, look for other small group workshop opportunities offered by the BC-DRaP before the annual event in September.

The BC-DRaP is sponsored by Middleham and St. Peter’s Parish along with All Saints Episcopal Church, Calvert public schools, Calvert Library, the Calvert County branch of the NAACP, the Charles County branch of the NAACP, Community Mediation Centers of Calvert and St. Mary’s, Concerned Black Women of Calvert County, Emmanuel SDA Church, Remnant Center of Excellence Inc., the St. Mary’s County branch of the NAACP, St. Mary’s public schools and Patuxent Friends (Quaker) Meeting.

The Big Conversation Partnership encourages all of us to think broadly, listen actively, and pray boldly for equity and justice.