Profiles of communities addressing racial equity

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People in a parade route in WagnerWagner, South Dakota: After using “study circles” to address poverty and build prosperity, residents of the rural town of Wagner, S.D., realized that there was something holding them back from making real progress: they needed to address the long history of racial tensions between the white people living in the town and the American Indians living nearby.

Through multiple rounds of dialogues, residents have been taking steps toward understanding one another and ending racism in their community. They can point to many successes including:

  • The establishment of a small business incubator. Half of the board members are American Indian, and half are white.
  • The redefinition of the Secretary of Indian Affairs to a liaison between the state government and the American Indian community. This position was formerly housed in the same department as tourism.
  • A significant increase in graduation rates of American Indians, which is now 30%. Before the program, very few American Indians graduated high school.

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Woman standing in front of a fruit standNew York City: residents are taking a stand against systems that limit access to affordable, healthy food. As a result of various food policies, a disproportionate number of people of color and low-income residents live in “food deserts,” including many residents of the South Bronx.

In October of 2010, more than 150 people from all five city boroughs participated in a day-long community conversation to decide which actions could make their neighborhoods healthier. Here are some actions participants are working on:

  • Educating the public about the Farm Bill.
  • Developing incentives for people to make healthy food choices.
  • Influencing the Mayor’s office to incorporate food policy into PlaNYC, a long-term sustainability plan that affects the entire city.

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Woman speaking in front of a banner of Martin Luther King, Jr.Lynchburg, Virginia: More than 2,000 people have been involved in the “Many Voices – One Community” dialogue-to-change program.

Initiated by the city, with support from community partners, it was designed to address rising racial tensions following the 2006 death of Clarence Beard Jr., a black man who died during a struggle with two white police officers. Their efforts have led to many positive outcomes, including:

  • Citizen participation has become an established part of Lynchburg city government, used on issues ranging from policing to budgeting to planning.
  • Improved diversity training in the Lynchburg Police Department, the Criminal Justice Academy, and the City of Lynchburg.
  • The creation of a non-profit organization, Beacon of Hope, that provides support for all students to have access to resources in order to reduce the achievement gap.

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These profiles are formatted as a two-page printable handout! Use it to inspire community members at your next meeting, or share it with potential funders to show them what's possible.

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January 22, 2014

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Mayme Webb Bledsoe of the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership Uses Dialogue to Lift Voices in the Duke / Durham Community 

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.