In the Fray Published my Essay about Northern Ireland and the 12th of July

379483_684283868043_1018071529_n-2I feel a day late on this, but I’m grateful to In the Fray for publishing my essay about Northern Ireland. A little more than a week after our 4th of July, this piece is well-timed, as July 12 is a big day for Northern Irish Protestants. I hope it was safe one this year.

This particular essay has been a long time coming, so it feels good to have found a landing spot for it. I’m especially intrigued at what my Northern Irish friends might think about it, so if you’ve got feedback, please give it! And after battling the Confederate flag issue for the past month, my South Carolinian friends might also be interested to know that Belfast has struggled with a very similar issue over there during the past couple years.

My essay begins like this:

“A few years ago, I found myself in a very Protestant part of Belfast trying to convince neighborhood kids that they should be nice to Catholics. I was working for a nonprofit, driving all over Northern Ireland to direct sports programs that bussed groups of children back and forth between Protestant and Catholic enclaves. Americans would probably describe the work we did as “peace-building,” but locals in Belfast called it “community relations.

“My colleague Joanne, a Catholic, had come with me to east Belfast to talk to kids who were part of a soccer program there. Programs like this are often funded by foundation grants that mandate a community-relations component. The danger is that the participants sometimes felt duped. They were there to play soccer but found out they had to listen to our spiel first. Challenging the convictions they’d grown up with invited resentment, too, especially when the hosting adults didn’t really buy in. And that’s the exact scenario Joanne and I ran into.”

To read the whole essay, go here.


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