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A Seat at The Table | Bree Clarke | TEDxCUNY

about a year ago I went to a workshop I
found it workshop online you know this
workshops where you learn how to paint
do floral design sketching or
calligraphy this workshop I found online
looks so inviting it was bright and
colorful everyone was around a table
together learning something new the
description of the workshop was inviting
I’m gonna quote it and read it it said
come share a magical afternoon building
those up around you while fostering a
strong sense of community a workshop
filled with connection experiences
memories and special moments I said to
myself this is so dope I had to try out
this workshop with a smile on my face I
went to got my card clicked the little
green button and hurry to my inbox to
get the ticket for the coolest event I
literally felt like Charlie with the
golden ticket from Willy Wonka and the
Chocolate Factory the day of the
workshop arrived and I was so excited I
was going to be one of those women in
the picture smiling laughing connecting
and learning something new I was going
to be part of that community part of
what I saw in the picture I arrived at
the venue walked into the room with the
biggest smile and fullest heart but
immediately that all went away when I
walked in there groups of women groups
of women in 2 or 3 some by the window
some by the entrance It was as if
everyone had been best friends forever
in addition to that they all look the
like I mean clothes hairstyle everything
and they look completely different from
me It was as if they belonged and I was
out of place
still with the smile on my face but no
longer inside I looked at the women in
hopes of getting a smile back but soon I
came to realize how could I get a smile
no one was looking at me now let me ask
you do you ever walk into a room and
phyllis diller
no one sees you do you you wonder why I
was so excited from the description of
the workshop those words community
diversity and connection that equals
something they were gracious words
gracious words are like a honeycomb
they’re sweet to the soul and healing it
to the bone we all need the gracious
words as human beings what does the
definition of community mean to you the
definition of community is a filling
attitude as we get as a result from
sharing with others who share the same
interests of us who share the same
attitude as us or who have the same
goals as us
community and diversity are two words
that we hear on a regular basis we’ve
heard it most of the morning today we
see it around us we see it today at the
University but they’re also to the most
commonly misunderstood ones they’re
throwing a lot round a lot so much that
they’re depersonalized
when I was at that workshop I felt
internally that I could not be the only
person to have felt out of place in a
space that was created to come together
a space that was meant to be shared with
the community it made me want to get to
that feeling of why Society was losing
that personal touch why a word that we
see so often online on social media
Instagram Facebook podcasts that in
person an actuality is invisible let’s
take the definition of community a step
further I like to view it as a family
sometimes we think of community we think
it out of it on a large scale in
actuality we can scale it back scale it
back to something more intimate it takes
us back to that personalization of
have you ever been to a restaurant that
offers community style seating it
usually consists of a large farmhouse
light table with no barrier no division
no assigned seating it’s just an open
seating space and most the time you go
order your food or your dinner your
lunch or your dinner and you come back
and you sit next to someone that doesn’t
look like you someone that may have a
different background as you and but it’s
still there for the same reason as you
which is to connect eat talk to the
person they’re with or even say speak to
the person next to them it’s almost like
a family setting in a public space think
about it when you’re sitting at a table
with your family after a long day that
seems to have been filled seems to have
been rushed but at the same time never
ending a day that has probably been
stress stressful but when you come and
you sit down at that table with your
family that all goes away
because you start sitting you start
sharing and connecting and learning
what’s going on think if we did this
outside of our home if we took the time
or took a moment to speak to those next
to us if we took time to connect to
someone that looked different from us we
would remove an imaginary barrier that
we have created in society today that
each one of us have created a society
day okay to relieve my nervousness it
also to help coughing I want each of you
to look to the right or I look to the
left say hello to the person sitting
next to you
now how long did that take it didn’t
take long it took nothing out of it
it took nothing away from us it says
nothing I had this idea to create on the
table workshops with the purpose where
what just happened in this room right
could happen every time and even after
we left a workshop I created this
workshop from my own personal experience
I wanted to get rid of that imaginary
barrier and I wanted them to equal the
definition of community remember what I
told you when I walked into that room
and that everyone looked different from
me that where diversity pops up in my
head you know so many times we connect
diversity with race when actuality
diversity is so much more than race it’s
ethnicities its background its sexual
orientations its location its shape the
size of style it’s so much so what if we
combine that community style seating
with the idea of community and diversity
a space that equals the idea of family
this is idea of community and family has
been a personal mission of mine this is
a workshop that happened with women of
different backgrounds races religions
ages that came together and they sat
next to someone and created something
beautiful with someone that didn’t look
like them for me it’s more than a
hashtag it’s something that I feel that
so far yet so close for us to grasp I
believe that everyone should have a seat
at the table
let’s eat at the table you know the
dining table has so much meaning behind
it it’s where families come to connect
come to love come to share it’s for
friends come to learn more about you and
be part of your life it’s also a place
where we share memories meals and
moments for a while my husband is in the
audience we didn’t have much
we actually we didn’t have anything
we slept in our car we slept at friends
houses and motels that I wouldn’t even
want my worst enemy to sleep you know
when even when we got an apartment it
was so small you literally had to go
outside to think which in Texas it’s
different here your apartment seemed
really small he’s like you build up and
not out but it was so tiny and after we
got this apartment we literally had 2530
dollars I think to our name with that we
went to this gross went to the store and
we bought oil pans a barrel cheese balls
because I’m addicted to Cheetos some
cheese balls
cereal and our air mattress we literally
did everything around this air mattress
it was our dining table we ate here we
talked about our day here we watch TV we
play games it was literally the only
thing that we had an apartment just I
feel that everyone should have a seat at
the table I believe that everyone should
have their very own table I don’t think
that it’s fair nor fun because I
personally know that sitting on an air
mattress eating your dinner or
connecting with your loved one it’s fair
and I wanted to show that and what I’m
doing here today it’s so funny that when
I share my story or speak of my past my
friends they always say Bri gosh I had
no idea that she didn’t have a home I
know had no idea you were sleeping in
the car when people think of
homelessness they didn’t see me they
wouldn’t see a person that looked like
me when you think of homelessness you
picture a panhandler on the side of the
road you think of someone sleeping
outside of a shelter because they
couldn’t get in you think of someone
living under a bridge you don’t think of
your coworker who’s sitting next to you
having lunch with you going on break
with you chatting with you
has no home to go to when they get off
work I think of this I also think of the
families that do have the homes but
don’t have the opportunities because
they financially cannot afford a table
financially cannot afford that idea of
sharing and connecting with their family
around the table community it’s not just
shown through a workshop it’s shown by
what we do for others it’s shown how we
make others feel I wanted to give
everyone the opportunity to be able to
have a seat at the table I wanted to be
give everyone the opportunity to have a
chance to share their connection around
the table for that husband when he got
off work to come home and share the
praises he got from his boss and the
alkyl aids from that child when they got
home from school to be able to share
what happened or that science project
and their face to light up to tell their
parents are that mom to share that meal
that she just found online I saw at a
cooking show on Pioneer Woman which is
my favorite I love her but it never
comes out like hers but that to me is
the definition of community family
connection equals community so as you
guess since my husband and I didn’t have
a table for a long time we started a
little family business where we build
farmhouse tables for families no matter
their background no matter their
economic troubles troubles no matter
where they are in life I took something
that was trendy and cool that you go
other places for instance Restoration
Hardware you paid $3,000 and you go
where you give what you want or you give
what you can
and it gave families each family an
opportunity to share and connect and
share those memories and share those
moments around that table community it
starts at home it’s a mindset that we
can have we have to build it within
ourselves first and we build this from
life experiences that once we leave the
home and take it out into the world we
can share it on a platform you can share
it on a platform many of us don’t even
realize that we have a platform but what
if we did realize that we had a path one
what if we did see that community
equaled a family would there be a change
in society which you are you walk into a
room and not feel as though no one sees
you would you see those words that I
mentioned earlier connection experience
special moments in person rather in
print a sense of community and diversity
is long overdue it should create the
energy that we have in this room the
energy that we’ve gotten from all the
speakers today it should create that
where we walk outside that door and we
have the same feeling it’s more than a
workshop it’s more than me building a
table if we embrace diversity we could
have a world that we only wish for at
times a world that celebrates and
dignifies community a world that brings
that personal touch back to everyday
living I had a hard time putting my
words on paper and trying to figure out
how to deliver it and I had a friend
that’s right here that told me that when
you get stuck leave your heart and go to
your head through this entire process
I’ve kept saying head to heart brief
head to heart for all people we’re on a
perfect and it just kept resignate in
with me the entire time
I’m not an eloquent speaker I’m not a
public speaker so head to heart free
head to heart imagine if we put heart
and used heart with diversity imagine
that we compare at heart to community
when you use your heart it gives you
those warm loving feelings it’s how we
treat ourselves it’s how we treat others
because those inviting words that I read
that day come share afternoon building
up those around you while fostering a
strong sense of community they can be a
reality with heart they can be a reality
if we embrace diversity they can be a
reality for each one of us in this room
and outside that door will you make it
yours will you make it others my name is
Bree Clark I believe that community and
diversity are more than hashtags and I
believe that everyone should have a seat at the table
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