Selma will be site of Q Commons Conference

Published 9:46 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2015

By Blake Deshazo

The Selma Times-Journal 

Selma is among 65 other cities across the world that will host a Q Commons Conference in February. The conference aims to make a difference in the community.

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“Basically it is trying to have an opportunity for people to be able to have open, intelligent conversations with people from all different walks of life,” said Mike Lewis, the organizer for the Selma conference.

The Q Commons conference in Selma will be held Thursday, Feb. 26 from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Walton Theater.

In years past, conferences have been held in larger cities, but this year Q Commons is expanding to smaller cities because that is where they believe the biggest difference can be made, according to Lewis.

”It gives people a chance to kind of talk about the future in ways they maybe haven’t already,” he said. “Sometimes you can sort of get stuck in the same old conversations over and over and over again and not really make a lot of progress.”

People that attend the conference will hear six different speakers — three from the national conference and three from the local conference.

The national speakers are Malcolm Gladwell, a New York Times bestselling author, Soledad O’Brien, an award winning broadcast journalist, and Mike Burnett, a world-renowned television producer for shows like “Survivor” and “Shark Tank.”

The three local speakers are Dane Shaw, who is in charge of the Fatherhood Initiative; Justin Averette, editor of The Selma Times-Journal; and Paul Garnes, one of the executive producers for “Selma” the movie.

Each speaker will have nine minutes to speak to the crowd with the exception of Malcolm Gladwell, who will speak for 18 minutes.

The speakers, Lewis said, will discuss ways to change lives and inspire community members to do so as well.

The idea to hold a conference in Selma, Lewis said, started when he was asked to take part in a Q Commons conference call. Lewis thought Selma would be a good location for a conference because of the national attention the city is getting due to the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the release of the movie.

Lewis said he first attended a Q Commons Conference nearly six years ago in New York City.

“I was really impressed with it,” Lewis said. “I loved the format, and I loved being able to meet the people they brought together. And they really kept the conversation going.”

Lewis said he hopes the Selma conference can leave an impression on people who attend the event just like the New York conference did for him.

Tickets for the Selma Q Conference are available for purchase online at