Facing hard truths, gaining perspective

Facing hard truths, gaining perspective Image
Facing hard truths, gaining perspective October 20, 2021

In 2020, Cleveland State University graduate student Ricardo Reinoso founded Cleveland Dinners. Since then he has hosted over 12 events, providing people across communities with a safe space to have conversations about race, racism, and other issues in their communities.

When Cleveland State University graduate student Ricardo Reinoso founded Cleveland Dinners in 2020, he pushed himself out of his comfort zone to create a safe community space where people could have difficult conversations about race and racism. Having hosted 12 dinners since August of last year, he has encouraged countless others to push themselves out of their own comfort zones to engage in these conversations.

“For a lot of people these conversations are not easy,” said Reinoso. “It’s not meant to be a comfortable topic, but we intend for it to be a comfortable place to have a difficult conversation. We want people to feel comfortable to be uncomfortable by creating a safe space to share experiences.”

“The concept is to invite people to a virtual dinner in a very casual and comfortable setting.”

The event starts with a welcoming that features a performance from a live musician and an invitation to grab a cocktail or bite to eat. To stimulate the night’s discussion, an actor then presents a performance sharing a story of an experience with racism.

“Because the play is written in a way that shares someone’s personal experience, that opens up the room to where people feel comfortable enough to share their own experiences or stories.”

Other pieces such as TED Talks and reading highlights have also been used to spark discussion, which is guided by a facilitator in Zoom breakout rooms. Every piece is intended to share an experience about racism.

“At the other end of the evening, what caps it all off is our ‘dessert,’ a performance by a spoken word artist or poet who shares his or her work.”

The safe space that Cleveland Dinners creates allows attendees to be open about their experiences and delve into issues affecting their country and local communities.

This is especially important given recent political and racial upheaval amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And in a time of intense isolation, the dinners provide much-needed personal connection.

“People are eager to interact in any way and hosting the dinners virtually has allowed people to do that.”

Reinoso said the venue has also allowed people to connect with others beyond their own communities.

“One interesting and beautiful thing about going virtual is that now, it’s not just limited to Cleveland. People can interact with others both locally and internationally. We have had people participate from other parts of the country and abroad, including from Beijing and London.”

Throughout time, Reinoso hopes that the dinners will continue to facilitate these connections and inspire other to create change in their own communities.

The next Cleveland Dinner will be held on Sunday Oct. 24. Visit clevelanddinners.org to register and to learn more about the organization and how to become involved.