WORDS // Tanorria Askew PHOTO // Jennifer Driscoll
Most people know me as Tanorria from MasterChef Season 7, but those who were acquainted with me prior to that know me as Tanorria–super passionate about diversity and inclusion and who also loves to cook.
For three years, I have had the privilege of combining these two things—food and discussion about diversity—into one evening. Facilitating these meaningful gatherings is among my favorite things each month.
I want to take a moment and invite you to have a seat at my table… a unity table.
Three years ago, I attended a conference called IF: Gathering. One of the segments at the conference included a table full of women with different backgrounds and ethnicities sitting around a table talking about race reconciliation. The table was led by reconciler and bridge-builder, Latasha Morrison. Guys, can I just tell you how awakening this Unity Table was? Not only were these ladies killing me softly with their songs, but they were also convicting me in ways I didn’t know possible. A woman’s words struck me when she said, “I don’t want Heaven to be the first time I am singing praises to God next to someone who doesn’t look like me.” WOAH! Of my friends, 90% are not black, but this still struck me to my core.
The other beautiful thing that came of this segment was that my white sisters in Christ approached me afterward with so much compassion and curiosity for things they not only didn’t understand but had never been required to even consider.
I took my experience in the corporate world as a diversity and inclusion practitioner, together with my deep passion to build community through feeding people, and Unity Tables were born. These tables are raw, unchartered, uncomfortable and even frustrating at times, but they are also truthful, graceful and convicting. What a beautiful sight to see women from all walks of life, ethnicities, statuses and churches come together with one common goal—unity. Agendas are thrown out the window. Assumptions and stereotypes are checked at the door. I absolutely love them!
Friends, I strongly encourage you to invite someone who doesn’t look like you to your table. It doesn’t have to be a fancy meal. It doesn’t even have to be a meal! Pull out some cheese, crackers and wine, and go deep. Go beyond the surface of “I’m black.” “You’re white.” As I always say at my Unity Tables, I want you to see that I’m a black woman. That begins the conversation of who I am. That’s diversity.
But it’s so incredibly important that you don’t stop there. When you stop there, you foster the stereotypes that society has created. You make assumptions about a person’s character that has nothing to do with who they really are. I also want you to go beyond what you see and discover the complexities of who I am. You begin to learn things about my upbringing, who I consider “my tribe “and why. You learn what I’m passionate about and why. You also begin to match up the things we have in common and how we can build a relationship. That’s inclusion.
You can find out more about Tanorria, what she is up to and even score some of her recipes by going to http://tanorriastable.com.