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“To be able to talk about these things is so key,” Third annual Justice Conference brings dozens together to discuss race, backgrounds

OKLAHOMA CITY - During dinner at a conference in Oklahoma City, conversation is the main course.

The room was filled with Oklahomans who are breaking bread and breaking open a dialog about the different paths they've walked in their lives.

For the past few years, a group called "Stronger Together" has been holding these unique dinners.

"This is simply an event for us to gather together as brothers and sisters from all over the state to talk about the issues that are in front of us in terms of race," said Caylee Dodson, Director of Restore OKC.

Friday night's dinner was part of the group's "Cross the Bridge" Justice Conference.

That "bridge" is an acknowledgement of the gap that exists when it comes to communicating with someone who doesn't have the same experiences as you do.

"Creating a safe place at a table, a bridge to arrive at, to be able to talk about these things are so key," said Kenny Deason, Co-owner of District House.

"The bridge is open, it's there, all we have to do is walk over it and cross together," said event emcee Audrey Hathorn. "Because the bridge may be poverty, it may include homelessness, it may be a lack of education, so many things this bridge represents."

Organizers take people, who wouldn't normally be together, and put them in a room where the conversation starts - and hopefully a better understanding follows.

"As part of the planner here, I didn't want the choir here, I didn't want people already singing this song. I want people that we can make a pitch for. Give them a note aahh, and they can start to sing, they can go back to their communities," said Lee Roland, conference planner.

The conference began Friday night and will continue Saturday.

This is the third year the Justice Conference has been held.

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United Voice mission statement: A coalition of Oklahoma’s media outlets, brought together in a united voice to promote a healthy dialogue on race.