Earlier this month, neighbors and people of faith in Nashville, TN, celebrated the 4th of July a little differently. Rather than celebrating a traditional Independence Day, we gathered to consider and celebrate our interdependence with a cookout, fundraiser, and pledge to one another. This wasn’t just any cookout—we hosted this community meal in partnership with The People’s Supper, which is a collaborative initiative of the Faith Matters Network, Van Jones’ #LoveArmy, and other groups focused on the art of civil dialogue.
The idea is simple and powerful: The People’s Supper organizes dinners where hosts will bring together friends who want to know each other better, or strangers who reach out to attend a dinner. Then folks sit down at the table together to practice one of humanity’s most ancient rituals of breaking bread and sharing stories. The dinner host usually begins with offering up some communal agreements around sharing, listening, and honoring each other’s stories and experiences. As folks enjoy a potluck-style meal, guests take turns responding to some conversation prompts that dig into our visions of a more just and equitable future, then we follow where the conversation leads. Suppers have been held all over the country, opening doors to deeper community through thoughtful conversation.
In this time of deep social and political division…we need each other more than ever.
We called together an Interdependence Day Supper because in this time of deep social and political division, when many people are exhausted and made vulnerable by discriminatory policies, we need each other more than ever. On this holiday that celebrates the American spirit of might and independence, we wanted to hold up a counter-narrative to the underlying American myth that suggests all of us can and should be self-made and self-sufficient—competitors in the world, climbing ladders, and looking out for number one. Instead, we wanted to lift up all the ways we are tied together in the fabric of our community: one body with many parts, accountable to each other, and powerful in our capacity to love and fight for one another when the going gets tough. In this space of care, we sat down together as equals to meet a most basic human need for sustenance. We dropped ours guards, shared our stories, and created a small instance of Beloved Community.
As we invited a backyard full of people to reflect on our relationship as neighbors in this changing city, we particularly highlighted the work of a local grassroots tenant organizing group, Homes For All Nashville, who are fighting back against gentrification and the displacement of many Nashville neighbors. Then we put our commitments to community into action by raising money for this good work. Later in the evening, one of the kids led supper guests in making the “Pledge of Allegiance to Each Other,” and people were invited to write down and share their commitments about things we would each do to be better neighbors and build the country we dream of together. Folks shared goals about spending more time with elders, meeting the people in their neighborhoods, and being patient about difficult conversations with people who see the world differently. We all left this meal with a tall order of action items for shaping a more equitable city, and the broader network of support it will take to get there.
Of course, we still had the hot dogs (and veggie dogs) and watched the fireworks well into the night, but this year something deep and more life-giving was at work. As I washed the dishes and put the house back in order after all our guests had gone I felt a new commitment to stay the course as we navigate resistance in these difficult times, and I felt stronger for having made new connections and deeper ties with friends who are also dreaming and working for a more just America. We need each other, and we need more spaces of care and intentional conversation like this — places where we can build love and trust across, and because of, our differences.
If you’d like to host or attend a People’s Supper, get more information or sign up, visit our website. Community begins at the table.
Lauren Plummer is an advocate/organizer with people who experience homelessness and housing insecurity in Nashville, TN. As a recent graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, she seeks to nurture communities of radical care for the bodies and spirits of people on the margins and people struggling for justice. She loves practicing care through table fellowship and was delighted to host this People’s Supper in partnership with her mentors at Faith Matters Network.