2,500 attend 2015 Community Meeting

Best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke to more than 2,500 people about race in America at the Community Foundation's 2015 Community Meeting at Miller Auditorium on November 3.

The event was sponsored by PNC Bank and was part of WMU’s University Center for the Humanities’ 2015-2016 Reimagining Communities speaker series.

Coates referenced his cover story from the October 2015 issue of The Atlantic magazine, “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” saying how the disproportionately large number of incarcerated blacks is impacting families.

Community Foundation President/CEO Carrie Pickett-Erway and Fernando Ospina, organizer and trainer for ERACCE joined Coates on stage following his remarks. Reparations was among the topics discussed, where Coates referenced the argument he made in the 2014 Atlantic cover story, “The Case for Reparations.” 

During the dialogue, Coates said The Kalamazoo Promise was “a radical step” for equity in education. He also said if people are not asking “why” about their current situation, then they will not be prepared to bring solutions. 

In her opening remarks, Pickett-Erway said, “We know that we cannot be the community we aspire to be until all kinds of individual and institutional discrimination are no longer a part of anyone’s daily life.” 

“We believe tonight can add momentum to the equity movement in Kalamazoo County,” said Pickett-Erway. “We believe that achieving equity is quite possibly the most important work in our 90-year history, and for the future of our community. If we are honest with ourselves, we must recognize that our systems and policies have not served all residents equally.” 

Introducing Coates, she said “He is here to help Kalamazoo County see more clearly. His message is as relevant here as anywhere in America. His words, his passion, and his mastery of history inspire us to reconsider what it means to love where you live.” 

She said, “Although the Community Foundation pursues equity in its broadest sense, tonight, we’re here to talk about race and there is no one more equipped to lead a conversation about race equity than Ta-Nehisi Coates.”

Prior to the talk, Pickett-Erway said, “It is the Community Foundation’s hope that, upon hearing his message, people will reflect, and join in these important conversations.”

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