Coming Together, One Conversation at a Time

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Min Matson, a transgender, liberal Korean adoptee, talks with Walt Shjeflo, a conservative who voted for President Trump, at Make America Dinner Again.  (Maykel Loomans)

2017 was a year of tension, mistrust and people feeling divided. As we head into a new year, The California Report Magazine gathered some favorite stories about people coming together, despite their differences.

When You're a Journalist and Your Grandfather Doesn't Trust the Media

Lacy Jane Roberts with her grandfather, Tom Tyler, at the Montana Bar in Miles City, Montana.
Lacy Jane Roberts with her grandfather, Tom Tyler, at the Montana Bar in Miles City, Montana. (Yuval Avniel)

After the 2016 election, a lot of people were struggling to understand opinions different from their own. Some were wondering how to break out of their echo chamber and talk to people who come from really different backgrounds. Last year, we ran a series called Start the Conversation.

The idea was to bring people together, people who sit on different sides of a political or cultural divide, to talk about the issues that are important to them. One of our favorite conversations was between reporter Lacy Jane Roberts, who lives in the Bay Area, and her grandfather, Tom Tyler, who lives in Bozeman, Montana. Lacy, of course, works in journalism. Her grandpa doesn’t believe the media can be trusted.

A Dinner Party That Tries to Bridge Political Divides

Min Matson, a transgender, liberal Korean adoptee, shares Walt Shjeflo’s story in the first person at Make America Dinner Again. Shjeflo, a conservative Trump voter, also shared Matson's story in the first person.
Min Matson, a transgender, liberal Korean adoptee, shares Walt Shjeflo’s story in the first person at Make America Dinner Again. Shjeflo, a conservative Trump voter, also shared Matson's story in the first person. (Maykel Loomans)

A lot of us are told not to talk politics at the dinner table. Especially if your guests fall on different sides of the political spectrum. But as Bianca Taylor tells us, a new movement called Make America Dinner Again breaks this rule, in a big way.

A Mother and Son Reunite Over Music

Tom Kennard with his sister Amy Martinez and mom Joyce Arterberry in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo: Chloe Veltman/KQED)
Tom Kennard with his sister Amy Martinez, and mom ,Joyce Arterberry, in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Chloe Veltman/KQED)

For more than 40 years, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus has used its music to help create community and bridge divides. Last fall, it toured five Southern states.

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The idea was to support local LGBTQ communities that may feel increasingly vulnerable in conservative areas. KQED Arts reporter Chloe Veltman caught up with them on the tour bus. She tells us about one of the singers and his mom, who hadn't heard him perform since he was living as a little girl.

Paul & Armando: A Friendship Found in a Grocery Store

Paul Barnett (L) and Armando Rivera established a lifelong friendship after a chance meeting in a Fresno grocery store 35 years ago.
Paul Barnett (L) and Armando Rivera established a lifelong friendship after a chance meeting in a Fresno grocery store 35 years ago. (Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)

Sometimes people from really different worlds come together by chance. That's what happened to Paul Barnett and his friend, Armando Rivera.

They met in the 1980s at a grocery store in the Central Valley. Armando is deaf, and he taught Paul how to sign. They've been friends ever since.

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