State College

Mokita Dialogues look to get people talking

The upshot of living in interesting times is that there’s always plenty to talk about.

To that effect, the Jana Marie Foundation is partnering with New Leaf Initiative and the Centre Daily Times to launch the Mokita Dialogues, a monthly discourse on topics ranging from homelessness to the prison system.

Words will start whipping at noon Thursday in the confines of the State College Municipal Building, where a discussion on the power of dialogue thematically teeing up all of the talks to follow between now and the end of the year.

“What we’re really trying to do is raise awareness about some issues that are prevalent throughout the community,” said Marisa Vicere, founder and president of the Jana Marie Foundation.

That sentiment can also be conveniently located right there in the program’s title. In the language of Kilivila, “Mokita” refers to a known truth that goes unspoken — or one of the many of the tangential issues that the Jana Marie Foundation comes across during an average workday spent defending mental health.

With only 12 months in a year and a February start date, the list eventually had to be whittled down to a core group of topics that could benefit from a little extra community attention.

“We picked 11 that we feel are prevalent, that good conversations can come from,” said Vicere.

Susan Marshall, head counselor at State College Area High School, will facilitate Thursday afternoon’s look at the power of dialogue, a subject that plays key role in her line of duty.

“I hope to get us thinking about what inhibits/hinders us from engaging in critical dialogue and to encourage us to think about how to keep the conversation about this moving forward,” Marshall said

By default, this means recognizing silence as a less than viable alternative to dealing with awkwardness, embarrassment and other factors ranking generally high on the discomfort scale.

Marshall believes that it’s difficult to solve a problem without acknowledging all of the different issues at play, no matter how uncomfortable.

“Learning to lean in, fully embrace and engage with another person about scary and sometimes taboo subjects can be life changing,” said Marshall.

A new discussion will be held on the fourth Thursday of every month (holidays not withstanding). March’s dialogue will revolve around drugs and alcohol.

Vicere is of hopeful that the talks will help spark new solutions to old problems. At the very least, there’s possibility that somebody might walk away just a little bit wiser.

“Dialogue is more than conversation. It’s about listening with empathy, listening with understanding,” said Vicere.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

Mokita Dialogues schedule

Feb. 23 — Power of dialogue

March 23 — Drugs and alcohol

April 27 — Food security

May 25 — Mental health

June 22 — Homelessness

July 27 — Prison system

Aug. 24 — Sexual abuse

Sept. 28 — Suicide prevention

Oct. 26 — LGBTQA+

Nov. 16 — Veterans

Dec. 14 — Loneliness