|Many positive efforts are taking place around our country to
promote good race relations. Dialogue is one powerful tool to this end. Below
are several examples of positive results achieved through dialogue and other
In Lima, Ohio... a mayor concerned about racial tensions in his community brought together area ministers to talk about organizing a dialogue. Two churches agreed to start a unifying process by holding a study circle, with help from the local college in training discussion leaders. Four years later, more than 100 organizations, including 62 religious congregations and over 3,000 people, are involved. Results range from volunteer efforts, like a multiracial unity choir, to community wide collaborations on violence prevention and a city-wide plan for hiring people of color
In Buffalo, New York . . . a series of highly publicized dialogues took place with students and educators from a wide band of cultural, racial, and ethnic communities. The dialogues involved students from six city schools and six suburban schools. Over the course of a school year, representatives from each of the 12 schools came together to discuss issues related to race, ethnicity, faith, and culture. Students now function as peer trainers, taking the lessons learned to their respective peers and recruiting the next round of participants. The dialogue and action plan focus on understanding and valuing differences within schools, and on identifying and teaching strategies for understanding and valuing diversity across school and community boundaries.
In Richmond, Virginia... a citizens group inspired its political and business leaders to host "an honest conversation on race, reconciliation and responsibility" At this event, residents came together to "walk through" their different racial histories.... High school teachers and counselors responded to their students' request for dialogue and offered their support as discussion leaders. Students from public and private schools, the inner city, and affluent suburbs signed up. These young people-normally separated by race, income, and geography-would meet once a week for six weeks at different locations in and around the city... A couple invited a diverse group of friends to a pot-luck dinner at their home to talk about racial healing. More than 40 people showed up. It was so successful that the group decided to meet monthly, each time in a different home. They invited the police chief, a county supervisor, a newspaper editor, and other local leaders to take part as informal guest speakers.
In Orlando, Florida . . . a town meeting, telecast live by a PBS affiliate, focused on questions of immigration and community-a volatile issue causing deep divisions among people there. It was attended by business leaders and average citizens of all ethnic, gender, age, religious, cultural, and political groups in Central Florida. The meeting prompted more than 200 Central Floridians to participate in concurrent "home dialogues," where groups of 5-10 individuals meet face-to-face on the same day to discuss the challenges of race, culture, and ethnicity in their lives. The number of people wishing to participate in home dialogues has increased to more than 300.
In Des Moines, Iowa... leaders from various communities and faiths gathered for serious discussion and debate on issues of concern to residents. Subsequent conversations explored these and other issues, such as the effect of corporate downsizing on race relations in Des Moines. Each of the conversations involved community residents, students, and other civic leaders. The dialogues prompted specific actions-participants are exploring potential projects on which a coalition of individuals and organizations could work. Building on the interest and excitement generated by the dialogue series, ongoing, more clearly focused dialogues identified common ground, common concerns, common values, and resulted in a redefinition of community
Table of Contents
Characteristics of Community Dialogues
Starting Steps for a Dialogue
Conducting an Effective Community Dialogue on Race
The Role of the Dialogue Leader
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