The People’s Gathering Goes Virtual at Pacific Lutheran University

On July 9 PLU’s Campus Ministry and Center for Graduate and Continuing Education will be hosting a virtual edition of The People’s Gathering, a dialogue-based event series focusing in-depth on the topic of race. The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. online in a Zoom Conference format and is $59.

The People’s Gathering is an annual professional/personal development experience and supportive learning space for participants to discuss race and racial disparities that are systemically present in work, school, and everyday life. This summer’s emergency convening was organized in response to the increased public indignation regarding police brutality toward Black people.

Millions of people worldwide saw Black man George Floyd die during his arrest by Minneapolis police, which soon sparked protests against police violence. “That is something that you cannot unsee,” said Melannie Denise Cunningham, PLU director of multicultural outreach and engagement, and producer for the event.

“As a result, millions of folks are waking up to what Black people in America have known for centuries — racism is real. Yet, many of these same folks are without the tools, skills, or cultural literacy to work through these difficult conversations toward solution finding efforts,” she said.

Cunningham believes going virtual is fitting for this event. “The biggest opportunity for going virtual is now we are not limited by physical space. People from all over the world can join us for this edition of The People’s Gathering.”

Speakers and conversation facilitators also will include educators, nonprofit leaders, and consultants from the Tacoma area, as well as across the country.

Local leaders and educators will include Lua Pritchard, executive director of the Asian Pacific Culture Center; Danica Sterud Miller, American Indian Studies professor at UW Tacoma; and Troy Storfjell, a PLU Nordic Studies professor who specializes in Sámi and Indigenous studies and more.

Facilitators from around the country will include Shakti Butler, founder and CEO of World Trust; Skip Rowland, principal at Banner Cross, Inc; and Michael Benitez, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Cunningham also is known as the 253 Peace Queen; a documentary about her travels attending the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway as Greater Tacoma’s Peace Prize recipient has been featured on KBTC TV. She also was a South Sound magazine Women to Watch speaker last year.

Cunningham has brought together a wide variety of support for the event. “Raising the money for sponsorship is always the most challenging,” she said. “Yet, for this case, it has been relatively easy because of the urgency and need for what we are doing.”

The local businesses and nonprofit organizations sponsoring the event include The Bamford Foundation, WSECU, Korsmo Construction, PEMCO Insurance, International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union-Local 23, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, MultiCare, Advance Consulting, and Peace Works United.

For more information and to register please visit

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