In the following article, Thea Nietfeld, of Newton, Kansas, describes how a small group of friends tried out deliberation, and how they are planning to use it next.
In January, Kansas Peoples’ Agenda called progressives to the state capitol to put the peoples’ needs into Kansas’ policies and budget. Four women from Newton met there and began having lunch regularly to talk about local and national politics.
At one lunch, someone brought up the multiple shootings in the community over the last 2 years: five murders in 2 incidents in and around Newton this year and the previous year, 3 multiple murders left 9 people dead. This is a rural county 20 miles from Wichita, which has a Mennonite College and a pacifist heritage. We need to find a way to think and talk this through as a community, we agreed.
One of us is an experienced deliberation facilitator, with training from National Issues Forum (NIF). Another is active in the local anti-racism group. After discussing the process, it was agreed that a relevant NIF issue guide would be selected and that we would have a model deliberation event at one of our homes.
So, on Saturday, July 22, the 4 women and 4 more family members and friends deliberated through the Safety and Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence? issue guide. It was a thoughtful conversation which ended with agreement that all of us wanted to hear how people in law enforcement and those outside our circle of friends would view the options: Apply the law fairly, De-escalate and prevent violence, and Enforce the law together.
At our last lunch, we talked about inviting local organizations to sponsor a deliberation so that additional views would be part of it. Then we planned our trip to the rally with Rev. William Barber in Topeka, Kansas, on August 21.