By Jon King /

A local pastor is hoping to spark serious conversation among Livingston County residents about issues surrounding race.

Yolanda Whiten is the pastor at St. James AME Church in Brighton. The AME church, or the African Methodist Episcopal Church, is a predominantly African-American Methodist denomination. On Tuesday at 3pm, Pastor Whiten will lead a Zoom gathering entitled “Race Conversations: A Community Education Time” in which she invites anyone interested in a productive dialogue to join.

Pastor Whiten tells WHMI that this year’s tumultuous events, from COVID-19 to the murder of George Floyd, have created a unique opportunity to learn more about each other as a community. "We need to find out how other people are living and what is going on. All of us are guilty. There is no one person that's guilty or one group that's guilty. All of us are guilty and on some level all of us need to do something to make a change." Whiten added that, "We need to stop just driving into our garage and letting the doors close and not know who are neighbors are and how they're living or how they're making it. It shouldn't take a pandemic to cause that to occur."

Whiten thinks that with so much turmoil gripping the country over issues of race, she’s hoping to spark a discussion on what we have in common, and just as importantly, what we don’t have in common. "When we find out about our explicit and implicit biases it helps each one of us to grow and become better. We need to know and care about what's happening to our neighbors and how they're having to live...we really do breathe the same air and live in the same space and we have to care about what's happening to each other."

Whiten says the conversation, which is set for Tuesday at 3pm, will be held via Zoom. She says anyone is invited to participate, but truly hopes those participating will be interested in an actual dialogue and not just a forum to express anger or hostility. Details on the event are posted on the church's Facebook page. Pastor Whiten will also be a guest this Sunday on WHMI’s Viewpoint program at 8:30am.