Portland-based Race Talks help shatter ‘preconceived ideas’


Monthly discussions are held at McMenamins Kennedy School in Northeast Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A retired educator is still teaching tough lessons—but in a bar instead of a classroom. 

Before the coronavirus hit, Donna Maxey would hold monthly community discussions called “Race Talks” at McMenamins Kennedy School in Northeast Portland. 

The two-part meetings over food and drinks draw as many as 400 people. They start with a presentation followed by small group discussions. 

“The whole idea is if you get to know people, you will find out that a lot of the preconceived ideas that you have about people are not necessarily correct,” Maxey said. “A lot of those ideas are based on fear.”

Donna Maxey speaks at a Race Talks discussion in Portland. (KOIN)

The talks range from cross-cultural adoption to homelessness. But they always center around social justice activism and interracial communication to, as Maxey says, “break the chains of racism.”

“The whole idea of Race Talks is to allow people to get to know each other so they can change their little corner of the world, change how they operate, how they see the world and change how the world reacts to them,” she explained. 

Race Talks started in February of 2011 and it celebrated its 100th discussion at the start of 2020. All proceeds from the January, 2020/100th forum went toward the Race Talks Youth Scholarship Fund, as do all proceeds raised from the monthly raffle, which is a hefty gift basket generously donated by greenHAUS Gallery which features monthly rotating American artists, plus a quirky vintage, craft & gift boutique. Donations raised at the door go to our general fund to help cover general operating costs and training for adults.

The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday but was postponed due to the coronavirus. Maxey plans to hold online forums in the future—and KOIN 6 News will update this story with any updates. 

Race Talks: Break the chains of racism

Fliers for a Race Talks discussion. (KOIN)

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