Breaking Bread: Despite Political Differences, Finding Common Ground At Work

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Photo: Breaking Bread, Brian Yates, Collinus Newsome
Brian Yates and Collinus Newsome found common ground at work despite their political differences.

What might happen when two Coloradans of different races and political leanings come together in an office setting and look for common ground? In the case of Collinus Newsome and Brian Yates, in our Breaking Bread series, there was an unexpected bond.

Collinus was a Hillary Clinton supporter and is no fan President Trump. Brian says he couldn’t bring himself cast a ballot for Trump, but describes himself as a small-government kind of voter who was never a supporter of President Obama. Politically they’re far apart, but they worked together in Aurora Public Schools during the election. A photo on Brian’s wall brought them together.

Photo: The BV Strong Community Dinner
The BV Strong Community Dinner in downtown Buena Vista, Colo.

That image captured something called the BV Strong Community Dinner, of which Brian was a co-founder -- until 2016, he had also been the principal at Buena Vista High School. The dinner took over Main Street in Buena Vista, with dozens of tables lined up end to end and more than a thousand people sitting down to have a meal together.

There was no agenda for that dinner. Just a desire to help local folks make a connection to each other. Which, in the end, is what happened to Brian and Collinus.

“I asked about the picture,” Collinus tells Colorado Matters. From there the conversation turned to backgrounds and assumptions about each other. She was touched by Brian’s story about how people’s differences “melted away” at that dinner.

Brian was struck by something Collinus told him the morning after Election Day: Two white guys opened the door for her to a convenience store and she told him she wasn’t sure what to expect, given her perceptions about white men. And Brian said to her, “What if they just wanted to open the door for you.”?

Click on the audio link to hear Ryan Warner speak with Collinus and Brian. You also hear an interview with Jody Alyn, a consultant who’s worked with companies, schools, the City of Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy on policies that promote inclusion in the workplace. Alyn says that, across the board, her clients report more discord these days. She talks about that and ideas for finding common ground.

And then check out the rest of our Breaking Bread series. In our first gathering everyone got to know each other a little bit. Then came some discussions about health care, race, as well as climate change. We profiled each panelist in in a short video. We asked Mehdi Khan and his wife Maleeha Nawaz, both Muslims, of they would visit Annette Gonzales’s church in Pueblo. And then Gonzalez and her daughter agreed to attend Friday prayers at Mehdi’s mosque in Northglenn.

Meredith Turk contributed to this story.