On Wednesday, Sept. 27, the Keti Koti Table Foundation on behalf of St. Mary’s College of Maryland introduced for the first time in the United States, a formal Keti Koti Dialogue Table with a Breaking Bread – Breaking Chains dinner dialogue at the public honors college. The Dutch tradition was established over the last ten years to commemorate the abolishment of Dutch slavery in 1863, and reflect upon the effects of slavery.
Mercedes Zandwijken and Machiel Keestra the developers of the Keti Koti Table, invited by professor of religious studies Katharina von Kellenbach, facilitated the event.
The Keti Koti (break the chains) table is organized around a series of rituals and a meal.
The tradition was partly inspired by the Jewish Passover Seder table, the African-American Kwanzaa festival and the Dutch Ramadan festival, all of which combine rituals, reflection and festive meals.
The Keti Koti dialogue table brings together an equal number of black and white participants, inviting them to exchange their personal experiences and ideas on freedom, identity and the consequences of the shared history of slavery for all. The series of rituals and facilitated dialogue creates a safe and intimate environment which makes participants confident to share sensitive experiences and feelings with each other.
By not approaching this sensitive topic via its history or political ramifications, the Keti Koti Table succeeds in avoiding heated debates surrounding a shared history of slavery.
Approximately 60 participants took part in the Breaking Bread Breaking Chains dinner dialogue Wednesday.
In addition to Breaking Bread – Breaking Chains, the foundation hosted a 24-hour Racial Reconciliation Relay on the patio of the Campus Center where each hour a different pair of diverse people engaged in facilitated dialogue on their personal experiences and thoughts regarding the shared history of slavery and its aftermath.