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One America - Days of Dialogue

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One America

Program: Days of Dialogue, Los Angeles, CA
Contact(s): Catherine Pedrosa, Special Assistant for Human Development: (213) 473-2373
Purpose: To create dialogue among the diverse groups within society by addressing the difficult issues of the day

Background Program Operations Outcomes


In 1995, Los Angeles' deeply divided reaction to the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial underscored how far apart the diverse communities of the country are. As a result, Los Angeles Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas called a meeting on October 24, 1995, with 20 community leaders to work together to defuse the escalating interethnic tensions. Out of this was born Days of Dialogue ("Days"), a nonpartisan organization designed to foster discussion among different ethnic cultures regarding issues such as race, crime and poverty.

Program Operations

The first Day of Dialogue, held in Los Angeles in 1995, included 50 small group discussions. Under the supervision of a trained facilitator, participants of various ages and from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds engaged in small group discussions in a safe, unbiased environment. Discussions were held in numerous community sites including churches, schools, government agencies and offices. Participants were given a set of ground rules and discussion was guided by a series of questions and exercises. On May 31 and June 1, 1996, the second Days of Dialogue took place in Los Angeles, focusing on affirmative action. Approximately 1,600 people participated in the discussions. "Violence in Our Communities" was the focus of the third "Days," held September 27 and 28, 1996, and roughly 1,800 people attended the small group discussions located throughout the city. Leaders of the Los Angeles effort began speaking with representatives from across the country to plan the first nationwide event. The Days of Dialogue format is based on the strategies of the Connecticut-based Study Circles Resource Center. (The Study Circles program has been highlighted by the President's Initiative on Race as a Promising Practice.)

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The first National Days of Dialogue was held between January 16-20, 1997, with 2,350 people in 10 cities participating in the event. The second National Days of Dialogue took place between January 14-19, 1998. This time, the event involved over 10,000 people in small group discussions in 60 cities across the country. Days of Dialogue has enjoyed the support and sponsorship of such organizations as the National Council of La Raza, Society for Professionals in Dispute Resolution, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics.

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