Frederick Douglass Matters, #TheTableSetters #FrederickDouglass



While it is frustrating, tragically so, to recognize that the prophetic words of Frederick Douglass from 1857 still resonate today when it comes to racial justice, we are choosing to see it as a light and an encouragement.  We know that faith without actions is dead, just as actions without faith are often lacking in wisdom.  We are better when we learn from one another.

For a little more on this video, here’s a promo we did with Ambar.  Unfortunately, the patchy wi-fi of East Detroit renders Matthew’s portions a bit choppy, but that’s a story of systemic injustice for another day.

We Love Detroit – a short video by Charlotte, age 7

A few months ago, my daughter Charlotte said:  “Dada, I want to make a video about Detroit for the Table Setters.”

My favorite part of this was that she started writing in her notebook about all the people she wanted to interview so there could be older and younger people, strangers, people who’ve lived in Detroit for a long time and people who are new, and she said, “I know, I know, I’ll definitely talk to people who look like us and people who don’t look like us.”

She decided to ask people what they like about our new city, because even at 7, she’s noticed that people tend to say many negative things about Detroit.  Marvin helped her think like a director and an editor, and of course, we helped her learn how to use the iMovie program.  She asked me to compose the music, and was very clear about how it should sound.  She chose the titles and imagery, and I helped her find some photos to enhance the stories people were sharing.

Obviously, I’m proud of her, but I also think it’s important to note that our kids, (not just my kids, but all kids) can handle thinking about narratives and community and diversity even in grade school.  In fact, most of the divisive mindsets people carry around with them originate at early ages.

Without further ado:

Marvin loves to do behind the scenes kind of extra footage, so we did this as a little promo.  Of course, we did it on a Friday right after school, she was hungry, and you can see the weekend jubilation setting in.  🙂



Thanks for watching, feel free to share, and any comments you leave will certainly be shared with the producer herself.


Featured on NPR

Too often people have a hard time talking about race. White people don’t understand black people. Black people just shake their heads at the behavior of white people. It’s rare that they’ll actually sit down and talk about it.

It’s not that white people and black people don’t talk. But they rarely talk about race.

Marvin Wadlow Jr. and Matthew Schmitt organized an effort called the Table Setters to help facilitate that conversation. They joined Stateside today.

It started when Wadlow and Schmitt were working at a non-profit ministry together in Hollywood to help the homeless population there.

“We recognized that there was a need to sit at a table,” Schmitt said. “A table is an equalizer. A table is a place where everyone is on the same level, literally… a table is where you share a meal and break bread. Coming from a Christian background, there’s a lot of tables throughout scripture and we really believe that being at diverse tables and being able to sit with people who don’t look like you and have respect, is really the heart of what all reconciliation work is.”

The idea of race and race relations is not a new concept, but the Table Setters are hoping people will find commonality when they sit down with each other.

“A table is an equalizer. A table is a place where everyone is on the same level, literally…”

“This issue of race has been going on since African-Americans were stolen and brought here,” Wadlow said. “And just that statement alone gets the room quiet. So what we say is ‘Look, we want to break bread with you. I think we have more in common than we have separate.’ That tends to get people at least to the table.”

The real challenge comes when individuals on both sides come to the table with concerns about talking about race.

“I think a lot of white people are interested in the dialog of, ‘What do we say, what do we do? It’s so confusing, if we say this, it’s wrong, if we say this, it’s wrong,'” Wadlow said. “And on the other side of the coin, black people are just like, ‘Here we go again.’ And they’re frustrated and they’re tired.”

Listen to the full interview to learn why we shouldn’t wait for a traumatic news story about race to have these conversations.

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunesGoogle Play, or with this RSS link)

Out Into The Darkness, Together

Words by Andre Henry, Prayer by Nick Barrett.

Thank you Isaac Bar-Jonah, Kimi Walker, Ivy Beech, Ambar Sabino, and Nick Barrett for setting this table, along with photographer Jordan Spencer, and Jesse Berger and Malcolm Wadlow for making it possible.  Edited by Avery Archie.  Thanks again to Thad Lolling for getting this site up and running!


From Matthew: When Marvin and I started becoming friends 14 years ago, I had no idea it would lead to the launching of The Table Setters.  But once we engaged with mission trip after mission trip, and once we had to have “the talk” time and time again (the one where we helped wealthier churches locate their Toxic Charity, the tendency to look down on the people they believed they were helping), we realized that Jesus keeps setting tables with his disciples.
And then he tells people to go out 2 x 2, and receive the hospitality of the people they would be visiting as they traversed country to country.  This was not colonialism.  This was a vulnerable sharing of the good news, that Jesus had conquered death and washed us with God’s mercy and forgiveness.
And then Paul keeps telling people how to act at the table, most certainly in Romans 14, when they sit across from people with different customs and food habits.  In other words: Jesus-followers ought to expect to forever be at diverse tables.
So: it’s a tragedy that Martin Luther King Jr. called out Sunday mornings as the most segregated hours in the country.  What’s more: it’s not much better decades after he noticed that.
It’s definitely time for change.  Marvin and I can come to your town, your school, or your church through plane, train, automobile, or video conference.  We can help you plan for long haul diversity initiatives that move beyond mere tolerance.  We can pray for you.  We can worship with you.  We can laugh with you.  We can lament with you.  And most importantly, we can celebrate, together, that God laments all the divisions his children have made along race, zip codes, political stripes, gender, housing status, language, and food choices.  We can encourage you, from here on out, to move past those towards the day when Revelation 21 becomes a reality, where all the nations come together to praise God.