Dialogue to Change facilitator Barbara Eikost voices her concerns. The group hopes to draw more minorities — especially men — to its discussions to bring a more representative mix of voices.
The Dialogue to Change program is moving out of the talking phase and into the much more daunting and complicated area of trying to make a difference in Toledo’s race relations.
About 100 people have met for seven weeks, getting to know each other and discussing racial bias in the community.
The goal was for each of eight small groups, of seven to 12 people, to design and implement action plans for tackling racism and starting to dismantle it.
The Dialogue to Change process is a companion effort to the “Changing Minds and Changing Lives: Combating Racism” speaker series, sponsored by the Toledo Community Coalition and The Blade.
As each group took turns Saturday presenting its findings and recommendations at the J. Frank Troy Senior Center, several common themes emerged, said the Rev. Karen Shepler, a coalition member working to coordinate the meetings.
“I heard several things. We have to get white people over the idea of, ‘We have to save you if you are not white.’ We need to reach a little deeper into the community and involve not just those who get it, but the people who don’t get it. We all know some of those people,” she said.
Several participants suggested a special effort is needed to involve suburban residents in the process.
From left, Sharla Cook, Janet Hales, and Darlene Sweeney-Newbern present their group action plans during the Dialogue to Change meeting at the J. Frank Troy Senior Center in Toledo.
“Whites need to talk to whites about racism,” said Conrad Pritscher, who added that people of color often beat around the bush when discussing racial issues with whites, because they don’t want to offend and because of fear.
Tom Spy of Sylvania said he has tried to engage white friends and relatives in discussions about race, but is often met with strange looks for broaching the subject, or is told racism doesn’t exist anymore.
Mr. Spy said his group created an action plan that focuses on education. They proposed working with area school systems to encourage more diversity in curriculum. In addition, they would like to create Dialogue to Change groups for parents from urban and suburban areas to meet, in order to create cross-cultural contact and more familiarity between diverse cultures.
Bringing together people from the urban center and the surrounding communities was an idea that was repeated by several of the groups, and a focus on programs for young people was the top area overall that emerged from these dialogue groups.
Several of the groups also recommended working with existing programs that have proven track records, rather than try to “reinvent the wheel.” One such action plan is to boost the schools-as-community-hubs concept that partners Toledo Public Schools with nonprofit groups providing medical and dental care, social services, after-school programs, and other services.
From left, Deborah Carlisle, Bernie Spiegel, and Joseph Moran discuss their group action plans. Some groups want to engage with existing programs. Others suggest creating a Web site.
Another action item emerging from group discussions was to create a group that monitors local media and contacts newspaper, radio, and television managers and owners about racist images or stereotypical portrayals of minority groups.
There also was discussion about enhancing the dialogue program itself with a new Web site that would serve as an information source for the community and central place for people who want to get engaged in the process.
“What we’ve done so far is just reach out to the people who come to the forums, who are people who are already informed. We need to figure out a way to go beyond that,” Ms. Shepler said.
A new group of participants will begin the Dialogue to Change process on Monday and Ms. Shepler said she is accepting names for future sessions. She is hopeful more minorities — especially men from minority groups — will get involved to ensure a good mix of participants and facilitators in all the groups.
To participate or help facilitate those meetings, contact the organizing committee at Toledoforum@gmail.com.
Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.
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