Racism dialogue ready for public collaboration

Groups to present plans Saturday


After weeks of intimate group discussion, Dialogue to Change is opening its doors to the public to discuss concrete proposals for combating racism in Toledo.

At a forum on Saturday, the walls of the J. Frank Troy Senior Center will be covered with the action plans the program participants developed over the course of six weeks. Between 10 a.m. and noon, each of the six groups will have five minutes to present its project before individual audience members sign up to collaborate on specific ones.

Saturday’s presentations will be the culmination of the third round of group discussions, after a pilot round in November and December, and a second round in March and April.

Joe Zielinski, one of the mediators, said the groups of 10 to 12 people have shared everything from personal experiences to statistics on disparities between ethnic groups at their weekly meetings.

Mr. Zielinski, whose group met at the Lagrange Branch Library for two hours every Friday, added that the forum provides an opportunity to address issues related to disadvantaged populations, such as lack of access to public services and unemployment.

“It’s taking it outside of the personal and taking it to the community to say: Where can we go with this new level of awareness?” Mr. Zielinski said.

The Rev. Karen Shepler, coordinator of the program, anticipates that the proposals at the forum will be easier to implement than those suggested by previous groups, such as a reform of the public school curriculum and the elimination of preschool fees.

“The [second] group was thinking really high and mighty,” the Rev. Shepler said. “These groups are more realistic and better prepared.”

However, a few of the groups from April’s forum on poverty will be in attendance to garner support for their projects, which include the development of a Dialogue to Change Web site, and the distribution of information about the program at summer festivals.

“The momentum is building,” the Rev. Shepler said. “You need to get a critical mass of people to work on these issues.”

The next group discussion sessions will start in June and September.

Contact Maya Averbuch at: maverbuch@theblade.com or 419-724-6522.