Conversations on Race: Community Offers Ideas for Coalition Work
Chair of the Board of Trustees Fred Profeta started this year’s Conversation on Race by telling the seventy or so residents who gathered at Morrow Church that the Coalition on Race was interested in hearing from the community about what they think the organization should continue doing, change, and start doing. He told the audience that the Coalition would always be true to its mission of racial integration and true inclusion and that, within that mission, the organization wants to be responsive to emerging integration issues.
In order to provide some context for the small group discussions by residents, Executive Director Nancy Gagnier spoke about where South Orange and Maplewood fit in terms of national integration trends.
Quoting from three recent studies (click here for links), she noted that the country is increasing in diversity, but that in most metropolitan areas across the country, racial groups are increasingly isolated from one another. She also commented on how the studies distinguish between diversity and integration. Finally, she identified the set of strategies suggested by one of the studies that allow a community to establish and maintain stable integration.
Program Director Audrey Rowe then spoke about the specifics of what the Coalition does, highlighting where the organization meets many of the suggested pro-integrative strategies. This set stage for the group exercise attendees participated in: everyone was invited to write down ideas about what the Coalition should continue, start, or change. Those ideas were then grouped and the broad categories (i.e., more engagement of youth, more social integration opportunities, improved marketing) were read out loud so the groups could discuss them.
By many accounts, the table discussions were lively and productive. At the end, the facilitators read out a synopsis of their respective table’s focus. Both the synopses and the individual suggestions will be taken up by the Board as part of its Fundamental Issues discussions, time devoted at each meeting to address integration issues that may connect to existing programs or spur new pro-integrative measures.