| Program: || Race Relations Dialogue Month, Bridgewater, NJ |
| Contact(s): || Sue Pay Yang, Chairperson: (908) 707-0022 |
| Purpose: || To facilitate countrywide forums at the local organizational level to focus on commonalities |
The Somerset County Cultural Diversity Coalition (SCCDC), a nonprofit grassroots organization, has many active members who are affiliated with other county organizations such as the United Way, the National Council of Negro Women, the Hispanic Council, Chinese schools, and county colleges and government. When President Clinton in June 1997 called on the nation to engage in a national dialogue on race, the SCCDC held a successful race forum in December of 1997. As a result of the positive response, the coalition saw the opportunity to facilitate countrywide forums to connect people of all races. They proceeded to request that the Freeholders, the county's governing body, proclaim April of 1998 as Race Relations Dialogue Month. Therefore, SCCDC and Somerset County held its first Race Relations Dialogue Month during April 1998, with the theme of "Discovering Our Commonalities."
Both SCCDC and Somerset County solicited many individuals and organizations in Somerset County to co-sponsor the month, committing to organize their own forums to discuss a race issue of interest to their organization's respective membership. The dialogues took place in homes, workplaces, schools, places of worship, libraries and a variety of other organizations. A powerful kickoff event was held at the Freeholder's office and concluded with an international festival at the county college. The structure and intensity of the dialogues were decided on by each respective organization. Different events included people bringing food from different cultures to share, an ethnic fashion show, roundtable race dialogues by students and teachers, a youth forum titled, "Is Racism Nature or Nurture?," and a political group discussing the issue of inclusion.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
The Race Relations Dialogue Month generated great interest, with over 30 organizations functioning as co-sponsors. The events that took place during the Race Relations Dialogue Month received much newspaper coverage, including The Courier News, The World Journal, and The Hillsborough Beacon. In the hopes of taking the Race Relations Dialogue Month to the state-level, SCCDC has spoken to the Secretary of State of New Jersey, religious groups and various ethnic organizations, and have received positive responses that indicate interest in this possibility.