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Daryl Davis

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Musician, Author, Compelling Unifier, Klan Whisperer, and Award-winning Conflict Navigator

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3 Video(s) By This Presenter

Video Profile
First Encounter with Racism
A Dangerous Encounter

4 Programs By This Presenter

It’s simply amazing what empathy and civil conversation can accomplish. Daryl Davis should know. For nearly 40 years the noted Black musician has gained acclaim for confronting extreme bias with civility. He’s engaged, face-to-face, those who hate him because of the color of his skin: members and leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and other White Supremacist groups. Disbelief is most people’s first reaction: How could he possibly be civil to “those people?” But Daryl reached out in an effort to understand – not to change minds. Those conversations forged unlikely but genuine friendships and over time many of his new friends changed their own minds and renounced their old beliefs. Some even gave Daryl their robes, hoods, Nazi flags, and other symbols of their past. Daryl is a brilliant storyteller with jaw-dropping experiences about building bridges of understanding using practical tools we can all employ to ignite positive change in our workplace, our community, and at the family dinner table. As Daryl says, “A missed opportunity for dialogue is a missed opportunity for conflict resolution.” This presentation is positively inspiring.

Daryl Davis is a Black man who for almost 40 years has walked on the edge – with one foot dangling over the precipice – on a quest to explore racism. Along the way, Daryl has befriended White supremacists, attended Ku Klux Klan rallies, been a pallbearer at a Grand Dragon’s funeral, performed hymns at an Imperial Wizard’s funeral, stood in as the surrogate father of a Klanswoman bride – walking her down the aisle to be given away at her wedding to an Imperial Wizard, and spurred the dismantling of the largest Klan group in the State of Maryland. Daryl is a master storyteller whose recollections have the suspense of a true-crime podcast and keep audiences riveted to their seats in disbelief. People leave his presentations empowered with the tools to make better friends out of even their sworn enemies.

From the high influx of non-European immigration to the United States, to a Black President, to a violent and deadly White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, to the rhetoric that inspired an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, to fear of the “Browning of America,” “White Genocide,” and majority-minority reversal in the year 2042…Daryl Davis is the voice of knowledge, reason, and tranquility in uncertain, racially turbulent times. For nearly 40 years he has been studying and dealing directly with some of the biggest promulgators of White supremacy, their fears, and their quest for power. His expert opinion is often sought by such leading news organizations as CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic, NPR, The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Newsweek, and The Atlantic. Daryl’s insights bring business leaders, law enforcement, policy makers, educators, and average citizens up to speed – helping them understand what’s to be expected and what can be done.

It was music that launched Daryl Davis’ crazy connection to the Ku Klux Klan. He was complimented at a show by a White man who said he’d never heard a Black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. Daryl explained that Lewis, who was actually a friend of his, learned his style by imitating Black artists of the day. The guy didn’t believe it. He also confessed to being a member of the KKK. The ensuing conversation led to an introduction to the leader of the Maryland KKK. Daryl interviewed him for his book and became his unlikely friend. In this talk, Daryl recounts how rock’n’roll – called “the devil’s music” by its detractors at the time of its inception – broke down early racial barriers with young people in the 1950s. Daryl brings that history forward into his own story, using music as a common denominator and proving that musical and racial harmony go hand-in-hand. He has been dubbed “The Rock’n’Roll Race Reconciliator” for helping people find common ground. Daryl punctuates his captivating presentation with a thrilling musical performance, in the signature Boogie-Woogie style he honed while backing Chuck Berry and other rock’n’roll legends.

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