The unconventional way a group of concerned community members is driving the discussion about race in our community.
The members of 904WARD want to make you uncomfortable.
They’re hoping that a recently developed deck of cards will do just that; effectively removing negative connotation from the phrase “playing the race card” in Jacksonville.
In a time when tensions are running high, 904WARD exists to offer a safe space – without judgement – to have the conversations that so often happen within races, but rarely across them.
904WARD’s initial group of twelve to fourteen individuals, mostly in the nonprofit sector, met every other month to discuss different topics, such as increasing diversity on nonprofit boards or changing the face of local awards by nominating more people of color. Within just a few meetings, interest grew, and suddenly there were at least forty people joining in.
It was then they knew they were on to something.
“It took us a long time to identify the questions we had to ask each other and ourselves. So, we started talking about how we can help others have these same conversations,” says Sunny Gettinger, a founding member of 904WARD.
Playing off the wildly popular card game Cards Against Humanity, the idea was first conceived as cards for humanity – a deck of fifty-two cards, eventually dubbed “Race Cards,” that contain stimulating questions about race, identity, and social issues.
Recognizing that these conversations can feel daunting, the idea to develop a game emerged from the desire to make the discussions less intimidating.
“Everyone is coming into this with their own experiences. And your experience itself is your expertise. So, the idea behind the cards was to make this more approachable and digestible,” says Tracy Tousey, another 904WARD member.
This was no small order. It took the 904WARD team, a completely volunteer-based organization, roughly two years to research similar tools, develop localized content, and then create the decks themselves. After a long list of questions was whittled down to what the group considered most important for the conversation, the content was reviewed by local organizations and individuals with experience in the diversity arena, like OneJax and a UNF sociology professor.
Armed with verified content, the group turned to Brunet-García, a local advertising agency, to brand both 904WARD itself and bring the race cards to life.
“We realized at this time that we were ready to move 904WARD forward as an organization so we developed the mark for 904WARD first and then started making strategic decisions on how to introduce the Race Cards to the community,” says Gettinger.
The 904WARD logo was developed to be memorable, contemporary, and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. The mark incorporates a dialogue box that can depict the tagline, “Dialogue to make a difference,” or flex to include additional content, depending on the application.
“This design element is a nod to the importance of difficult conversations, no matter how big or small the issue may be,” says Katy Garrison, creative group head at Brunet-García.
The Race Card design utilized an unconventional color palette with a gradient to avoid using colors that unintentionally elicit a negative connotation. The colors help differentiate content and make the game even more accessible.
Each deck includes guidance on how to facilitate a meaningful conversation while respecting and challenging other participants. Questions like “When was the first time you became aware of your race?” receive overwhelmingly different responses across races, and hearing those distinctive stories helps us understand where we are as a society.
To this end, the decks of cards don’t have many instructions. Authenticity and honesty reign as the most important rules to this game.
By Kate Jolley