9 Tips for Hosting a Racial Equity Gathering

racelogo-copy

As part of the KFLA Racial Equity Initiative, we present some tips to keep in mind as you think about hosting your own gathering. If you have tips to share, make sure you let us know!

Tips #1-6 were first published in the August issue of Connectivity and can be found below.

Tip #7
Maximize community partnerships

unpackingthecensusIn the summer of 2010, Jonathan Zur, President & CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, saw a presentation by Dr. John Moeser on race and poverty in Metropolitan Richmond.  So moved by this information that was shared at a Hope in the Cities meeting, Jonathan leveraged the resources of his organization in partnership with Hope in the Cities and Dr. Moeser to bring the critical data to a wider audience.  After a series of planning meetings throughout the fall and winter, “Unpacking the 2010 Census: The New Realities of Race, Class, and Jurisdiction” was launched.

From the moment that registration was opened for this forum, demand was high.  Inclusive Communities staff coordinated the registration and outreach for the program, and Hope in the Cities made strategic contact with local civic and governmental leaders.  Together, the two organizations developed the curriculum for the day, which would include Dr. Moeser’s presentation and table conversations and strategizing around the impact of poverty in six sectors: business, civic life, education, healthcare, housing, and religion.  As the program drew closer, the Mayor of Richmond asked if he could use the program as a venue to launch an Anti-Poverty Commission for metropolitan Richmond.

Over 200 people attended the forum, including Inclusive Communities board member and Kellogg Fellow Carmen Foster (KNFP-14).  At the program, attendees asked that the content be further spread, and one participant suggested that a video of Dr. Moeser’s presentation be developed.  With the enthusiasm, that project was pursued, and a video should be completed by the fall. Hope in the Cities and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities plan to train facilitators using a discussion guide to take the content to groups across metropolitan Richmond.  Additionally, a listserve has been started for individuals interested in anti-poverty efforts in the region.

Jonathan notes, “One of the most exciting aspects of this project was seeing the momentum snowball from an initial idea.  We have certainly lived by the adage that ‘the sum is greater than the parts,’ with each partner making significant contributions, and new collaborators emerging.”

Tip #8
Be intentional with your messaging

Steve Levitsky (KNFP-03), a Boston based financial advisor, knew how he wanted to participate the minute he heard about the Racial Equity Initiative. His company, Edward Jones Investments, articulates several goals for growth – one of which is attracting representatives with racial and gender diversity – and he saw how a deliberate strategy of racial equity could help to meet those goals.

Steve describes, “Instead of hosting a traditional recruiting event, we intentionally and explicitly outlined our goal of inclusiveness, which created an environment where people of color and women would feel welcomed. We billed it as an inclusiveness event and made sure that our marketing materials, keynote speaker, panelists and event logistics resonated with our target audience.”

The event was a huge success. Whereas typical recruiting events are attended by a handful of people, Steve’s event boasted 35 participants who expressed great enthusiasm for the opportunity and information, even staying late to ask questions about opening offices in their own diverse communities. Best of all, record numbers of hires have already been made from that one event and Steve expects that number to continue rising.

To bring his event to reality, Steve relied on the information provided by KFLA, including the Casey Foundation’s Race Matters Toolkit, presented at Forum by KFLA’s collaborative partners. As he and the company move forward with their inclusiveness goals, Steve will continue utilizing other resources complied by KFLA.

Tip #9
Acknowledge that race work can be painful and difficult

racegatheringThe KFLA team, María Guajardo (KNFP-11) at the Denver Mayor’s Office for Education and Children and The Denver Foundation co-hosted a series of trainings on “How to Conduct Conversations on Race” and invited community members and grassroots leaders to attend. Even though the primary goal of the training was to provide practical skills and concrete tools for participants, the facilitators expressly and intentionally created a safe space for participants to contend with the personal and emotional aspects of this work.

Michelle Di Benedetto notes, “The successful gatherings on racial equity that many of us experience allow time both to share our own stories and to listen to the stories of others. These personal accounts are crucial to the process of understanding how race affects each of us on the deepest levels. When we talk about dismantling structures and underlying systems of oppression, it’s important to remember that these inequities were built by people – individuals – based on personal experiences and biases.”

At the July training, a comprehensive debrief session provided an opportunity for people to share their stories and to talk about their hosted gatherings. Participants shared their successes and also took time to talk about their apprehensions and fears about doing the work. Importantly, the facilitators responded to these emotions in a way that acknowledged and alleviated these fears and provided renewed energy to continue doing racial equity work.


Tips for Hosting a Racial Equity Gathering
Tips #1-6, as originally published in the August issue of Connectivity

Tip #1
Find an issue and an organized group upon which to link the initiative

Mercedes de Uriarte (KNFP-07), associate professor of Journalism at the University of Texas-Austin, is linking her Racial Equity Initiative to local conversations concerning the city’s housing policies and an entrenched history of segregation. Engaging a group of her students, Mercedes is partnering with Blackland Community Development Corporation-a nonprofit with a strong track-record of working to preserve neighborhoods and affordable housing-to work with emerging grassroots groups.

Their goal is housing policy change, but Mercedes describes the approach as three-pronged: 1) Bringing disassociated grassroots groups engaged in parallel activities together into a coalition; 2) Disseminating information through free film programs that share different groups’ histories, provide context, and generate discussions; and 3) Videotaping stories of displaced residents and businesses to document unfair housing policies.

Says Mercedes, “So far, those in the emerging community groups we’re working with number just under 100. For our next meeting, we’ll ask each person to try to bring along someone else. Still, we recognize that committed groups build over time.”

Tip #2
Expand on a proven model

Tony Bracamonte (KNFP-12), retired Dean of Students at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, is working to bring the Utah Compact to communities in Arizona. Groups in Utah, concerned with the tone of their state’s immigration discussion, developed the compact, which encompasses principles built around the values of respect and humane treatment of immigrants. It stresses that immigration is a federal policy matter, and local law enforcement should focus on criminal activities-not civil violations of a federal code.

Tony is part of a group called the East Valley Patriots for American Values (EVPAV) that persuaded the City of Mesa’s Human Relations Board to endorse the Utah Compact’s principles. The effort required months of deliberations and civil conversations on immigration to earn support from business, law enforcement, faith leaders, and others. Mesa’s Human Relations Board unanimously endorsed the compact and has forwarded it the mayor and city council.

Since Mesa’s endorsement, other Arizona cities are contacting the EVPAV and voicing interest in adopting their version of the Utah Compact.

In June, Tony went before the City of Phoenix Human Relations Commission, convincing it to move forward with civil conversations on immigration and equity. Tony and EVPAV members will provide technical support to the commission.

Says Tony, “These conversations allow citizens of diverse backgrounds to come together in a safe, neutral atmosphere to seek a shared understanding of the problem and work together toward a common ground for action.”

Tip #3
Organize community action around various constituencies

Lora-Ellen McKinney (KNFP-13), a Seattle author and consultant, wants to put teeth in her city’s Charter for Compassion-a first-of-its-kind city charter passed last year. A rash of violent incidents convinced Lora-Ellen that issues around race remain unresolved.

She points out, “In spite of our reputation for compassion, Seattle does not routinely manage conversations about race with grace or useful strategies.”

Working with city leaders, Lora-Ellen is organizing a weekend dialogue in the fall with panel discussions, films, group conversations by discipline area, and more. Leaders representing the faith and business communities, education, philanthropy, and the arts have committed to help plan the event and put the word out. Groups will address how and if race impacts them, and how Seattle can become a racially compassionate city.

KFLA assisted by putting Lora-Ellen in touch with the Center for Courage and Renewal to find capable facilitators in her area. In addition, discussion guides and background material from KFLA’s Race Dialogues Toolkit are proving useful in the planning stage. The team plans to show “Traces of the Trade,” and include Seattleite Elly DeWolfe Hale-a woman featured in the film-in the follow-up discussion.

“KFLA has provided wonderful toolkits, discussion guides, how-to templates, and other resources to help us effectively convene our solutions focused gathering,” says Lora-Ellen.

Tip #4
Use the initiative to bring others to the work

Sally Hare (KNFP-11) works in her home state in South Carolina and in the Mississippi Delta facilitating Circles of Trust retreats that, in part, support participants in racial healing and reconciliation.

Says Sally, “I viewed the KFLA Racial Equity Initiative as an opportunity to be even more intentional about that work and invite others to join me.”

In conjunction with the April 11 initiative launch, Sally invited Wellesley College’s Peggy McIntosh, an anti-racist activist, to speak at Coastal Carolina University as a way to initiate community conversations.

Sally is part of a team working with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at Ole Miss. She is able to share her learning with others to help create safe space for dialogues on race. “The most important learning for me from my work in Mississippi has been my own insight that Circles of Trust may be ‘the work before the work’ for much of the important healing,” she says.

Tip #5
Add the lens of race to work you’re already doing

raceillusionElliott Gimble (KNFP-14) teaches science at Lexington High School near Boston. Inspired by KFLA’s initiative, Elliott involved seven other teachers in augmenting the 10th grade genetics curriculum with content on race.

Students view “Race: Power of an Illusion,” in class, then reflect on what they learned. Elliott shares one student’s reaction: “I find it surprising that there can be more genetic variation between two people of the same ‘race’ than between people of different ‘races.’ …When I thought about it, I realized that all conflict in our world seems based on arbitrary racial judgment. In almost any conflict, you will find that one of the people has something against the other that has to do with race or gender or both.” – High School Student Overall, the content engages students in debunking the myth that race has a genetic basis.

“That straight-forward, paradigm-shifting concept is what I like most about the film and the impact it has on people, young and old,” says Elliott. “As a teacher, I also find it the most challenging as I try to help transfer that awareness into meaning and personal action.”

Elliott and his students also toured the Boston Museum of Science’s exhibit, Race: Are We So Different?  Encouraged by the dialogue elicited this year, Elliott plans to build on the momentum and continue the content on race to give students a better understanding of race as a social, rather than a natural, construct.

Tip #6
Draw on traditional methods of storytelling

Kevin Fong (KNFP-14), founder and president of Elemental Partners in San Francisco, is part of a team funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to facilitate courageous conversations around the country on the impact of race on individual’s lives and communities. Kevin works with small groups, inviting each person to share a personal experience of racial discrimination.

“The intention,” he says, “is to experience what it would be like to create an environment for such dialogues to occur.” Kevin points out that the larger question is how to go about the work of racial healing in our day-to-day lives. He envisions a time when, beyond politics and religion, race can be a third-rail topic in family, social, or professional settings.

For now, he says, “The storytelling process that I facilitate is proving to be an effective practice that families, communities, and organizations can engage. Even if people are given just a few minutes to tell their own story of the impact of race in their lives, healing happens, but only when a safe and respectful setting is established. “

Leave a Reply