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Civic Life International Frames Community Race Relations in Nationwide Dialogue Project.

Civic Life international, one of the 10 community partners in The Mystery of Love project, a national educational community dialogue initiative that premiered on PBS December 13th has come up with a community action framing of race relations and violence in Dayton OH. The Mystery of Love project is part of Fetzer Institute’s Campaign for Love & Forgiveness, an inclusive, non-partisan initiative that explores how love and forgiveness can effect meaningful changes in individuals and communities alike.

Rather than use one method, Civic Life International and local partners were able to weave multiple indigenous and contemporary approaches into a more holistic program to meet a variety of needs, serve many community-building functions, and feed into each other in creative and useful ways. Since December 12, 2006 when this project started with the participation of Dayton Mayor, Rhin McLin, about 156 diverse members of the Dayton community have met several times, at the local PBS Station, THINK T.V, using various conversation models including: focus group, ASG, deliberative problem solving, sustained dialogue etc, to learn from one another and share thoughts, wisdom, knowledge, suggestions and ideas about how and what actions of “Love’ could be trasforming for individuals and for the Greater Dayton community alike.

The project used the following framework in their community action issue book. The publication will soon be available for order nationwide. For more information contact Tokunbo Awoshakin at 937-259-9889, e-mail: awoshakin@civiclifeint.org, or visit Civic Life International’s website at www.civiclifeint.org. Since it may be useful to those of you working on race relations in your own communities, I’ve included the introductory text below:



What Else Can We Do?

This framework is designed to promote deliberation that can help us find common ground for collaborative actions on these troubling issues . This framework, informed by the collective thoughts’ ideas and suggestions of diverse members of our community provides an overview of the issues and outlines three different approaches.

Each approach speaks for one set of community priorities and views and, drawing ideas from across a spectrum of stakeholders, suggests a different direction for people in the Greater Dayton area to pursue as we confront the issues in our community, initiate community action projects that might help us break down barriers that have divided us in the past and hopefully lead to better understanding and ongoing relationships

Approach 1: Education & Community Engagement

This perspective says inadequate educational and engagement opportunities for people to learn about others who are different from them is major cause of stereotyping and violence in our community. Proponents of this approach say lack of understanding of and about the other is aproblem we need to address. Supporters of this approach say if we do this and connect with individuals at the core of their spirituality; if we stress the goldern rule of “love your neighbour like yourselves” and create more opportunities for people, especially youths in our community, to learn how to speak with respect; listen deeply; develop a consciousness of the other; develop a sense of trust; and build relationships with people who are different from them, the Dayton community shall have transforming results.

Approach 2: Public Awareness Campaign & Strategic Law Enforcement

Proponents of this approach say lack of information and resources about the various forms of bias, bigotary and hate violence, including how to indentify them, report them and seek redress are the major obstacles to improving race relations and increasing actions of love in our community. This approach says an intensive public awareness campaign about these issues and an improved mechanism for monitoring and reporting acts of bias and hate violence will deter perpetrators and lead to a change in attitude among members of the comunity.

Approach 3: Economics, Inclusion & Diversity

This perspective says racism and violence in our community stem from economic disempowerment andthe feeling that there is no “real” inclusion, diversity or equal opportunities in the workplace. This approach says to reduce aparthy and disenhantment there should more collaboration with the local chamber of commerce ; an effective diversity policy, training of small business owners and a community mechanism to ensure that the employment, retaining and promotion of qualified people of various backgrounds, ages, abilities and cultures, as represented in increasingly diverse Dayton community.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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