CrossTalk: DC Reflects on Identity and Difference was a community engagement initiative that brought disparate publics together to think about race and religion thoughtfully and deeply, through the lens of literature and history.
Two theatre pieces started us off:
The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s play of justice, prejudice and betrayal among Jews and Christians, probably written in 1596, and
District Merchants, a retelling of The Merchant of Venice set in post-Civil War DC, this world-premiere piece, commissioned by the Folger Shakespeare Library, juxtaposed the experiences of two DC merchants: a newly emancipated Black man and an immigrant Jew.
The Folger, along with partner organizations across the city, brought together people of all ages, races, religions, professions, and lives - including community and religious leaders, scholars and educators - to talk "across," using both plays as a catalyst for dialogue. Folks gathered at the Folger and at our partner organizations to consider two basic questions that remain pivotal to our lives today: How do racial and religious identities foster both tolerance and polarization? What are the grounds of personal and cultural identity?
Tamir Rice. Laquan McDonald. San Bernardino. University of Missouri. Freddie Gray. Charleston. Sandra Bland.
Across this country, the issue of race and religion has divided us, just as much as they have served to unite us. Here in Washington, DC, we are a city divided, in particular, by race. The idea behind this project is timely, even urgent, as we struggle to find the words that will help us frame and communicate our deep feelings surrounding race and religion.
The Folger Shakespeare Library is a multi-faceted DC institution literally built on Shakespeare, a man whose plays have forcefully addressed the most troubling aspects of being human - and of being different - for almost 400 years.
CrossTalk DC kicked off with a public forum on May 15, 2016, where we explored how "us vs. them" becomes "all of us." Listen to stories. Tell your own. CrossTalk is the place where change begins.
CrossTalk DC Partners
- Anacostia Community Museum
- DC Public Library
- District of Columbia Public Schools
- Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington
- Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church
- Trinity College