Brookdale’s Spring 22 Civility Week event commenced on Monday, Feb. 14. President Dr. David Stout kicked off the event, inviting all present to participate in a week of honest and respectful conversation.
Dr. Stout then introduced the event’s keynote speaker, Rev. Kerwin Webb, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park and president of the Greater Red Bank Area NAACP.
“I see Civility Week as really important because of the state that we are in in our nation, and the importance of civility going forward,” Webb said.
The theme of this year’s event is “Centering Our Collective Stories: Listening As an Act of Civility.” The goal is to enhance one’s understanding of, and learn more about, the meaning and importance of civility.
Webb described the challenges of addressing civility when someone has had a difficult encounter or a traumatic experience. At times like these, it’s natural for civility to go out the window, he said.
“So how can I, in my place of privilege, talk about being civil when there is so much unrest with our fellow human beings?” Webb asked.
As a pastor, Webb feels he has been called and commissioned to speak to the chaos and unrest and to try to be an example of how to build bridges with constructive dialog.
“When we listen to each other empathetically we can move forward together,” he said, adding that “only honest and open conversations can help us get through the turmoil we live in.”
Webb described conditions and circumstances that have contributed to the volatility and anger society is experiencing now. From homelessness to discrimination to the current situation with Russia, he feels we are at or near the breaking point.
“Getting outside of our comfort zone and trying to see the world from someone else’s point of view,” Webb said, “are ways we can help to roll back this powder keg of confrontation and conflict and work together toward a more perfect union.”
Webb described these encounters as courageous conversations. These conversations with those different from ourselves take us to a vulnerable place a place where we can do some self-reflection and be accountable for the biases we have, the prejudices we have, the indifference that we have and the hatred that we have.
But to get to a place of civility we must get rid of our fear-driven policies, practices and politics and come up with solutions, not just problems, Webb said.
As Webb ended his keynote address, he asked the audience to go through the rest of Civility Week as a lifelong learner.
“I want you to go in, not with expectations or understandings, but I want you to go in with an open mind, to say, what can I learn from this person, what can I learn from this opportunity, how can I challenge my beliefs, how can I refine them in a way to where I am better because of it.”
For more information on Civility Week: https://www.brookdalecc.edu/civility-week/