Race in schools: Have these Tennessee moms found a way forward?

Franklin and Nolensville, Tenn.

Amie Cooke picked up her favorite coffee on her way to work and took a deep breath before pulling over to call Audrey McAdams, an acquaintance from her daughter’s day care. 

Ms. Cooke, a white mother of three, felt a little anxious about asking Ms. McAdams, a Black mother who also has three children, to join her in forming a group to talk about one of America’s most sensitive topics – race. Specifically, she wanted to bring different people together to discuss racial reconciliation in their small town of Nolensville, Tennessee, where, like many communities across the country, tensions lurk beneath the surface and sometimes above. 

It was the summer of 2020, soon after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, and Ms. Cooke was struck by a quote circulating on social media about how staying silent on the issue of racism wasn’t enough. She remembered hearing about Be the Bridge, a national Christian nonprofit that brings people together for healing conversations on race, a few years earlier. She searched for a local chapter and found none. So she asked herself: Do I have the confidence to find a co-leader and start a group?

Why We Wrote This

In a town roiled by teaching about race in public schools, some people are quietly fostering reconciliation through a simple idea: sitting down and getting to know each other.

“I was honestly not wanting to be a leader; I just wanted to join,” recalls Ms. Cooke. “But I realized this is it; I’ve got to do it.” She’d always hit it off with Ms. McAdams at school events and their daughters were friends, so she pulled up her contact list and sent a text message asking to talk. 

Ms. McAdams, chatting between work meetings, greeted the idea with enthusiasm. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, wow,’ this is a way to continue the conversation with people I don’t know,” says Ms. McAdams. “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just going to be a social thing, but something I could get behind and be passionate about and would make an impact.”


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