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Virtual convening of The People’s Gathering to facilitate timely conversations about race

Virtual convening of The People’s Gathering to facilitate timely conversations about race

Posted by:
June 30, 2020
By Rosemary Bennett '21
PLU Marketing and Communications

On July 9 PLU’s Campus Ministry and Center for Graduate and Continuing Education will be hosting a virtual edition of The People’s Gathering, a dialogue-based event series focusing in-depth on the topic of race.

The People’s Gathering is an annual professional/personal development experience and supportive learning space for participants to discuss race and racial disparities that are systemically present in work, school, and everyday life. This summer’s emergency convening was organized in response to the increased public indignation regarding police brutality towards Black people. 

“Millions of people worldwide watched in horror on television and social media as a law enforcement officer, with callousness,  murdered a black man,” said Melannie Denise Cunningham, PLU director of multicultural outreach and engagement, and producer for the event. “That is something that you cannot unsee.” 

As a result, millions of folks are waking up to what Black people in America have known for centuries—racism is real.  Yet, many of these same folks are without the tools, skills, or cultural literacy to work through these difficult conversations towards solution finding efforts.” 

Cunningham believes going virtual is very fitting for this event and events like it. The biggest opportunity for going viral is now we are not limited by physical space.  People from all over the world can join us for this edition of The People’s Gathering.”  

Speakers and conversation facilitators will include educators, nonprofit leaders, and consultants from the Tacoma are as well as across the country.

Local leaders and educators will include Lua Pritchard, executive director of the Asian Pacific Culture Center; Danica Sterud Miller, American Indian Studies professor at UW Tacoma; and Troy Storfjell, a PLU Nordic Studies professor who specializes in Sámi and Indigenous studies.

Facilitators from around the country will include Shakti Butler, founder and CEO of World Trust; Skip Rowland, principal at Banner Cross, Inc; and Michael Benitez, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Cunningham has brought together a wide variety of support for the event. “Raising the money for sponsorship is always the most challenging.  Yet, for this case, it has been relatively easy because of the urgency and need for what we are doing.”

The local businesses and nonprofit organizations sponsoring the event include The Bamford Foundation, WSECU, Korsmo Construction, PEMCO Insurance, International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union-Local 23, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, Multicare, Advance Consulting, Peace Works United.

For more information and to register please visit

Melannie Denise Cunningham, PLU Director of Multicultural Outreach & Engagement
Melannie Denise Cunningham, PLU Director of Multicultural Outreach & Engagement