The organization was founded by Dr. Gregory C. Ellison, II, an Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care at Candler School of Theology at Emory University and an ICTG Advisor. Dr. Ellison’s first book, Cut Dead But Still Alive, addresses delivering pastoral care to young African American men who are too often rendered invisible in society. During Dr. Ellison's speaking tour for the the book in 2013, he discovered that the experience of being silenced resonated with everyone he encountered. He decided to create space for people to have conversations where fear would be lessened. Thus, Fearless Dialogues was born. Fearless Dialogues, the book, will be released in October 2017.
The organization has hosted almost 100 events in five countries and has served over 15,000 people. A Fearless Dialogue encounter hinges on the following:
- Radical hospitality lessens anxiety, reduces power differences, and levels the playing field for hard conversations to occur.
- Artistic mediums, including visual art, spoken word poetry, and live music, re-frames sterile and hostile environments as spaces for lively and engaging interaction.
- Theory and research-based exercises (called “experiments”) heighten awareness, enhance vulnerable truth-sharing, and foster connections.
I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Dr. Ellison for over three years. He was my pastoral care professor in my very first class at Candler School of Theology. His energized pedagogy made his class an amazing experience. We dug deep into each subject, and learned how to engage with the world around us with an ethic of care. We were taught to honor humanity. I became a fan of anything and everything Dr. Ellison did and believe he has one of the most brilliant and innovative minds of our times. I became his research assistant and worked on several projects with him.
If you want to experience Fearless Dialogues, I encourage you to visit the website and explore how your organization can engage in this life altering encounter.
The five things I have experienced in Fearless Dialogues that have changed my life are listed below. In working with marginalized communities, and with people who have experienced trauma, it is important to keep these five components in mind:
Gifts: I learned that I had gifts that could contribute positively to the world around me and not just my life. I learned that by sharing my gifts I could enhance the lives of those around me. The organization values the gifts of the staff as well as the gifts of those who attend their events. It is a collaborative environment that innovatively enlivens the gifts within us. For practitioners reading this, you must see the person you serve as valuable and as having something to offer to world. You must not engage in patronizing the person.
Seeing: Through art and experiential exercises, Fearless Dialogues helps people see each other beyond the surface. The process helps people see the commonality of human pain and suffering. Participants observe and experience new epiphanies through seeing with eyes that perceive the emotions of others. For practitioners reading this, you must see the person you serve with eyes that see beyond the surface and try to find a commonality of emotional experience between you and what the other’s experiences.
Hearing: Participants engage in non-combative narrative exchanges that, combined with the seeing component, creates healthy introspection and self-reflection. This results in viewing and hearing difference through a new lens. As we say, “Once you see, you cannot not see.” For practitioners reading this, you must hear the narrative of the person you are serving to make sure that the person feels heard. You must also cull the appropriate parts of the person’s story to provide an adequate response of care to the person.
Care: Every experience at Fearless Dialogues operates based on sound theory and with an ethic of care and dignity. People are the most important factor, as demonstrated within the organization and in its interactions with the public. Hospitality, dignity, and connectedness are celebrated. For practitioners reading this, you must activate care within yourself by not being callous or overwhelmed, and by serving those who have experienced trauma with gentleness and kindness.
Integrity: What happens in a Fearless Dialogues workshop also happens in a Fearless Dialogues training and behind the scenes of the organization. Each module that the organization presents is based on an ethic of excellence, creativity and consistency. For practitioners reading this, you cannot switch “care” off when no one is watching. There must be seamless flow between your soul and your role as caregiver.
These are my takeaways from working with Fearless Dialogues for three years. Everything I learned in this amazing organization informs the work I do today as a leadership development coach. I continue to closely follow Dr. Ellison's work and recommend you do too.
To schedule a Fearless Dialogues experience, please email them here and refer to this article.
Iyabo graduated from Goucher College (B.A.), Georgetown University Law School (J.D.) and Candler School of Theology at Emory University (M.Div.).
Iyabo’s home on the web is at http://www.coachiyabo.com