“America has race problems, but Baltimore has a special kind of problem,” says J.C. Faulk. “Poor black people live on one side of the tracks and more affluent, primarily white people live on the other side. There is deeply embedded racism here. It will not end until people get to know each other!”
J.C. Faulk, who had been a diversity consultant for more than 20 years, mostly on the corporate level, decided he could use his talents to address these issues. In 2015, he invited a few people over to his home for a conversation about the impact of racism. This dialogue took place in his living room with about a dozen people. He called the discussion “Circles of Voices.”
He held another, similar event. That one drew sixteen people. The next one, twenty people attended. Very quickly, those small groups outgrew his living room, so Faulk expanded the program. In 2016, he received an OSI Community Fellowship to help increase the presence of Circles of Voices in and outside of Baltimore. To date, more than 2000 people have participated in Circles of Voices events across Baltimore, taking part in sometimes difficult discussions around racism, sexism, transphobia, patriarchy, and class.
The reaction to Circle of Voices has been overwhelmingly positive. One woman who recently participated in a discussion about patriarchy came up to him afterward and said, “I feel like this has changed me.”
Faulk understands the importance of his work. He said as crazy as the world can be, “there are good people, sitting on the sidelines, afraid or not knowing what to do to change the narrative. It is the ongoing mission of Circles of Voices to diminish the impact of isms, while creating safe spaces for participants to tackle centuries old issues that stand in the way of Baltimore and America being what we can be. We have a long way to go.”