Territory Livestreams First Courageous Conversation

By: Laura Poff

The Territorial Youth Department hosted the first Courageous Conversations dialogue, livestreamed on Facebook, Oct. 30. The livestream focused on race, was viewed by more than 3,800 people from across the territory and was led by Lt. Colonels William and Debra Mockabee, Captains Dan and Sarah Nelson, Jovanie Smith, Orientrius Cook and newly welcomed Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell, who decided to join the conversation on their first day in office.

“That spoke volumes,” said Major Algerome Newsome, territorial evangelism and adult ministries secretary. “For this to be successful, you have to have leadership buy-in.”

Major Newsome designed the format for Courageous Conversations in partnership with Lt. Colonels Mockabee, modeling it after Chattanooga Connected, an organization founded by Salvation Army donor and prominent Chattanooga resident Franklin McCallie while Newsome was the local area commander.

McCallie, seeing how racially divided his hometown remained, invited people into his home to have honest conversations about race.

“I watched what happened in Chattanooga, I saw grown men crying and sharing their stories,” Major Newsome said. “I felt convicted. It all starts with sharing your story. Healing takes place through just sharing our stories.”

During the Facebook live event, participants shared how they had experienced and witnessed racism as children. Through dialogue, they began to understand and acknowledge each other’s experiences, while thousands of Salvationists watched.

As Commissioner Howell acknowledged racial profiling and how it can impact interactions with police officers, Cook highlighted the importance of believing each other.

“If we can get to the point where we can say ‘I’ve never seen that or dealt with that, but I understand that you have,’ if we can get there, then we can have any dialogue,” he said. “But right now, we can’t even get to the point of, “‘I believe that you have experienced that.’”

Another Courageous Conversation took place in the livestream comments, where officers began speaking with their corps members about their own experiences with racism, and young Salvationists discussed white privilege and racial profiling. People of all ages and races from across the territory were having an honest conversation about race.

Major Newsome said that if we “just sit down to talk, we’ve already won. It will get messy in some places. And that’s OK. Someone in leadership opened the door. Fear is the only thing that keeps us from talking about this.”