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Forum on race and racism a safe space for uncomfortable questions

St. Frederick Baptist Church hosting forum on race and racism

St. Frederick Baptist Church is hosting 'Race and Racism: A Conversation' from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, June 12. The church is located at 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls. Courtesy photo

When Amber and Ben Bales adopted three African-American children, Amber had questions she did not know how to ask. 

“I didn’t know if they needed sunscreen or how to do their hair. I was scared to ask those questions. Black kids’ hair is different,” she said.

But Amber, who is Mexican-American, and Ben, who is white, did know who to ask: their St. Frederick Baptist Church family.

“My church family never made me feel stupid or ignorant or bad about asking those questions,” she said.

The St. Frederick’s congregation hopes to answer more hard-to-ask questions. The church is hosting a forum, “Race and Racism: A Conversation,” from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, June 12. The church is located at 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls. 

“There are questions people want to ask, but they’re afraid to ask,” Bales said. “People are protesting, and you don’t have a chance to talk face to face. We’re not just all black (at St. Frederick’s). We have a lot different people who go there.”

St. Frederick’s started in 1893 with an African-American congregation but has become more diverse over the years. 

Speaking at the event is Bales, the Rev. George Perry, who is St. Frederick’s pastor, and church members Bessie Jackson and Shalonda Crawford. Bales will talk about her background and the unique makeup of her family, while Jackson will give a short history of black Americans in the Texas Hill Country. Crawford and Perry will each discuss their personal experiences when it comes to race.

After each speaker, people can ask questions. 

Being part of a family made up of different races isn’t new for Bales. She was raised in a white family. When she came to the Highland Lakes, she made friends with people of different races, religions, and orientations and often heard racial terms that were unfamiliar to her. Those close to her explained they were derogatory.

As she’s gotten older, Bales continues to befriend people of all walks of life, noting her family lives in a mostly white neighborhood with people involved in county government, law enforcement, and volunteerism. She counts her neighbors as friends. 

Bales noted that not all of her friends of color want to be referred to as African-American because they weren’t born on that continent, but she wouldn’t have known that if she hadn’t befriended them and felt safe enough to have those conversations. 

That’s what Friday’s forum is about: offering a safe haven where people don’t feel judged, or worse, for asking sincere questions. 

“Sometimes, you’re scared to ask and don’t want to hurt anybody,” Bales said. “Having a discussion, it’s easier to understand if you gave me insight.”