COMMUNITY WIDE DIALOGUE TO END RACISM
Beth Broadway, Program Director
Community Wide Dialogue (CWD) to End Racism is the longest-running dialogue program on ending racism in the United States. Using the study circle, we build relationships and create a forum for action among people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet, work, and learn from one another. We forge racial and ethnic healing that leads to community action and understanding.
What is the “essence” of our work?
Our program utilizes a form of deliberative democracy, the study circle, to help adults and youth of diverse backgrounds breakdown misconception about race and ethnicity, and to work towards complementary action throughout our community to end racial inequity. Discussion topics include stereotyping and its origins, the meaning of white privilege, structural racism and its ramifications, and the power of being an ally. Adult group size is between eight and fifteen, and all groups are led by two trained volunteer facilitators during six two-hour sessions.
CWD conducts circles covering similar content in correctional institutions and community centers, and for teenagers (in the “High School Exchange”) and children (in “Starting Small”) through our schools. Our youth programs influence critical thinking and perspectives about the climate and community in which our students live, and serve as a catalyst for leadership development.
We also host events, the biggest being our Annual Duck Race to End Racism, that bring together the diverse populations of our community to celebrate and dedicate ourselves to ending racism.
Who do we serve?
CWD serves a broad array of people, ages eight to eighty, of all races, nationalities, and religions. Our projects bring together corporate and community leadership, urban and suburban youth, and general adult populations.
How long has the program been in existence?
CWD was founded in 1997 with the help of the Rosamond Gifford Charitable Corporation, the Study Circles Resource Center of Pomfret, CT, and a collaboration of leaders from local business, religious, social service, academic, and grassroots organizations.
How many clients have been served by the program?
5,000 people have participated in the CWD Program over the last ten years, and approximately 700 people per year are served. In 2005-06, 70% of those we served were children and teens.
How does CWD make a difference in our community?
The program, through a safe and effective process, influences opinions, changes attitudes, enhances knowledge, and forges stronger community cooperation among dialogue participants as they work to heal close-minded viewpoints and work on joint projects together. We also serve as a resource, keeping the mission of ending racism on the agenda of many different community groups and building a broad network of organizations to take complementary action on racial justice issues.
How does CWD’s work fulfill the mission of the IRC?
Through dialogue, we break down the stereotypes that keep people from fully seeing each other’s humanness, and affirm the worth of every member of our community.