RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The weekend before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day began, a multiracial, multigenerational group of justice advocates inside the First Baptist Church of Raleigh participated in the National Day of Racial Healing Community Conversation inspired, in part, by Dr. King's legacy.
"Before he died, he said, 'Are we going to choose chaos or community?' And unfortunately, a lot of times we've chosen chaos," said William Lucas of the Triangle MLK Jr. Steering Committee.
Now, at a time when political divisions can escalate to threats or violent acts, and racist comments about events of the day appear online, the community conversation emphasized positive exchanges with people of differing viewpoints.
"Making sure that our intended drives are impactful we are definitely invested in that and personally say delivering justice," said Carla Mena. "This happened at multiple times today, but making sure that we say the word justice when it's hurting, even when it's uncomfortable, even when you might be the one that takes the blow, some would say that's the reality."
"I think many times we are afraid to take that leap of faith," educator MariaRosa Rangel said. "But I think once we do that and we are in the process of that flow or that organization or that belief that we will be more open-minded to be more accepting of what was happening, then maybe it goes back to what you guys were saying, having those courageous conversations and honest conversations about what brings us together so that we could then unite and truly connect."
The conversations she mentioned happened in breakout groups, after which participants reconvened in the church's sanctuary to share ideas they developed.
"Different things are hard. So we said, right, embrace me so hard so that you can overcome the need to do it. And then lastly, it was an independence to make sure that we are open. And then we had someone speak directly to the Bible." said entrepreneur Farad Ali.
Niki Alston, a participant in another group said, "We actually did say that was one of the first things that we got to be intentional with our passion. I think it is so I really can't explain it here. But we have to say that it is just about empowerment in helping those characters that are being responded to."
Organizers look to high school age participants in similar workshops held earlier at the church as messengers for the next generation.
"They will express what they've learned and new people they met, and then they'll have goals to engage. Leaving this event to practice, to live out. So that's what's exciting about the future. Looks good," said First Baptist Church senior pastor Dumas Harshaw.