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Two friends wanted conversation and connection in their neighborhood in SLO 

In front of a house on the corner of Johnson Avenue and Palm Street in San Luis Obispo, an umbrella shaded a few beach chairs, snacks, drinks, and signs on June 19. About six people with face masks were chatting with each other.

"Black or White or Green, relax and have a beer or soda," the signs read. "In the end only kindness matters."

click to enlarge COMMUNITY David Bartholomew (right) and Dwayne Newman (left) got together to connect with their neighborhood and passersby over beer or soda and snacks. - PHOTO BY KAREN GARCIA
  • Photo By Karen Garcia
  • COMMUNITY David Bartholomew (right) and Dwayne Newman (left) got together to connect with their neighborhood and passersby over beer or soda and snacks.

Inspired by a video on YouTube of two men of different races promoting kindness in their community, David Bartholomew decided he wanted to bring his neighborhood together over snacks and conversation with his best friend Dwayne Newman.

Bartholomew is white and Newman is black, but the two said they only see "each other's hearts." Their goal, similar to the YouTube video, was to promote kindness, love, and, overall, being human to one another.

"Because there's just so much divisiveness, hostility, and hatred right now," Bartholomew said.

The two met at the California Men's Colony. Bartholomew was a priest teaching and Newman was taking his long-term offender program. The two ran into each other years later, and that's where their friendship really took off.

Newman grew up in South Central Los Angeles and met Bartholomew in a time of change in his life. During his incarceration, he took rehabilitation and re-entry programs. He describes this experience as his second chance. Newman talks about his experience, he said, to share the message that no matter what your life experiences or harships are, opening up your heart and mind can change things.

The experience also changed the way Bartholomew views his pupils. He now sees them as human beings going through hardship.

If these two people with completely different backgrounds, opinions, experiences, and cultures can become friends, Newman said, why can't other people do the same? If people of varying ideals can't get along, he said, they could still respect one another.

"In the end, this is what we all seek; we all seek unity," Newman said. "This is a community, and this is what we need to do to come together. Sit out here and embrace one another and just talk."

It starts with dialogue.

"I believe, if we all speak about our biases there lies the truth about our internal issues and problems we see that we can solve," Newman said.

As cars drive by, the group waves and motions for them to stop by. Some cars honk in support.

Taking the time to get to know fellow human beings is another reason the men wanted to have this community conversation.

"We can so easily objectify each other, but when we're together and we're breaking bread together, we're sharing our lives," Bartholomew said. "When we're polarized we can easily stereotype and caricature and turn each other into monsters because we're at extreme ends."

The friends didn't anticipate changing people's minds with their conversation corner, but they hoped to create a small window of opportunity for a small gesture of humanity amid a polarizing time in the country.

Fast fact

• The SLO Chapter of California Retired Teachers Association (CalRTA) awarded eight local teachers mini-grants of $100 each. Seventy-one teachers from the Lucia Mar Unified School District and San Luis Coastal Unified School District submitted applications to fund the purchase of items such as books, art supplies, "wobble" chairs, a microscope, and circuit board items they would normally pay for out of their own pocket. The Lucia Mar recipients are Cynthia Kim, Rebecca Immel, Gwen Fahy, and Mark Houchin. San Luis Coastal recipients are: Jessica Keach, Kristen May, Dana Daughtry, and Ryan Turner. Members of the association donate all year to fund the mini grants. For more information or how to join, visit Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to [email protected].

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