The event Sheryl Ferguson wants all of Kansas City to attend doesn’t even happen until later this month.

But she’s already laid down some strict rules because she doesn’t want anyone there to be accused of being a “Karen,” the unkind label for a white woman caught acting out on social media, usually toward a Black person.

Ferguson is organizing a public forum where people can talk about race — “everything people are too afraid to talk about,” the flier says.

No question will be off-limits, no question too cringe-worthy or inappropriate to ask, Ferguson said.

The Kansas City activist, an organizer with It’s Time 4 Justice, is designing a safe space to talk about issues that make a lot of people uncomfortable.

Safe space in this case means no participants will be photographed or shown on the livestream without their consent.

Safe space means people can ask questions anonymously, or at the microphones if they choose.

Safe space means you will not be judged by anything you say.

“I’m very aware of cancel culture,” said Ferguson. “I am very well aware of the Karen syndrome. And I do not want this event to make people feel like it’s going to be another one of those things.

“While the program is going on we will not have whatever question you ask cause you to have fear that you said something too racist.”

A flier for a July 23 event in Kansas City advertises an open discussion of race.

Uncomfortable conversations

Ferguson is inspired by Emmanuel Acho, creator and author of the video series and best-seller, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.” In the videos, Acho has one-on-one “uncomfortable conversations” about race and racism with famous folks and some non-celebrities.

Last year he sat down with officers from the Petaluma (California) Police Department to talk about defunding the police and police accountability in high-profile deaths of Black people killed by cops. That video has nearly 3 million views on YouTube.

Ferguson, who has been a critic of the Kansas City Police Department and its relationship with the city’s Black community, has thought a lot about that video after watching it.

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Then she also heard a conversation on a local radio talk show about whether white parents should have the same conversation Black parents have with their children about how interacting with the police.

Inspired by both, and the national unrest ignited by the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, she decided it was time to invite Kansas Citians to talk about race, “to peel back the mask to make it authentic and true.”

A diverse group of speakers

The forum will take place from 4 to 6:30 p.m July 23 at Community Christian Church, 4601 Main St., Kansas City, co-sponsored by the social justice group More2.

Ferguson is assembling speakers from various communities around Kansas City — Black, Asian, Hispanic.

“It’s mainly people that will be able to share stories about their experiences with having racism in their lives,” she said. “There’s no one that doesn’t have a story behind it.”

She expects the “false narrative of black-on-black crime” will be a hot topic, and “we already have a mind-set of how to answer that,” she said.

She also anticipates questions about cultural appropriation, “especially when it’s a situation to where white women get braids, and it’s normally something that’s only expected in the black culture,” she said.

She’s ready to have that conversation, too.

“Truth is I don’t think that’s cultural appropriation at all,” she said. “They’re choosing to enhance their hair, just the same as we are . . . it’s not a monolith to where only one person can have it, or one race.

“Truthfully, we’re really all one race and that’s human.”



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