These realizations occurred during Georgetown University’s first B.R.A.V.E. Summit. The summit’s acronym stood for “Black. Resilient. Artistic. Vigilant. Enough.” It celebrated the contributions of black women to society and provided a forum for them to share their experiences with each other. During the summit, I had the honor of serving on the panel for “Religion in Communities of Color.” While the panel itself featured two Protestant women and two Muslim women, women of various faith backgrounds attended the event. Before the participants entered the room and the panel officially began, I had the chance to reflect on my own experiences within my faith community and the interfaith community. To my surprise, the stories I shared, experiences I described, and challenges I admitted were familiar to many of the women within the room.
Of the similar experiences expressed between the panelists and attendees of the event, the most prominent was the idea that preconceptions are often misconceptions in disguise. Upon interacting with individuals outside of their faith tradition, many people often realize that their initial preconceptions of others are wrong. When we are unfamiliar with one’s background and traditions, it’s common to make assumptions based on physical appearance, perceived personality, and past stories. One of the beauties of engaging in interfaith dialogue is that not only do we get to challenge those preconceptions, but through being vulnerable and entering dialogue with an open mind, we have the chance to learn more about ourselves in the process.
By the time the panel and its subsequent discussions had ended, I not only felt braver than I had ever felt before, but I had a renewed sense of gratitude for the communities I am a part of. Sharing the challenging and rewarding experiences of being a woman of color in religious and interreligious communities with other women allowed me to track my own growth and recognize that I had always been brave, maybe not in my 10-year-old definition, but still in a way that produces notable change. In the aftermath of the summit, I hope that just like I found the bravery to be vulnerable and challenge my preconceptions, more people will find the bravery to venture outside of their comfort zones and engage with those who are different.