Unconventional training to resolve racial issues resumes in Hattiesburg

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An inter-generational community of 10 people will reconvene in March and April to continue empathy training at St. Paul Methodist Church in Hattiesburg. Sessions are scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Dr. Marcus Coleman, University of Southern Mississippi

“There’s a lot of activity in Hattiesburg around the idea of civic engagement. This is a community effort,” said Dr. Marcus Coleman, assistant professor of interdisciplinary and communication studies at the University of Southern Mississippi and empathy training coordinator.

The four-day training will focus on building a community based on interpersonal relationships. Several years ago, Coleman attended the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, where he received training on issues concerning African-American communities and how to better resolve them using empathy.

Other topics to discuss include implicit bias, blame emphasis and our contributions.

In January, the project, sponsored by the Hattiesburg alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., received a $2,000 Racial Equity grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council. The grant will provide supplies, said Coleman, including Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most, written by Douglas Stone.

“The training is curriculum based, including video, activities and role playing,” said Coleman.

For two hours each day, Coleman will meet with the small group to facilitate “intentional conversations about difficult topics,” according to Coleman. On the first day, participants will make a pledge to complete the training and accept the charge to bring others to join.

Training will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 21, 23, 28 and 30. Subsequent dates are April 18, 20, 25 and 27.