Build Bridges – Join Us September 20

In the Trib Talks June on-line forum we talked about “Our Town.” One participant referenced the “mixture of harmony and tension that underlies growth and diversity”. As in past forums, participants expressed concern about divides developing between North and South Columbia. Another participant observed “we need more opportunities that bring dissimilar people together to learn that we actually have more in common than not.”

After the forum yet another participant offered these comments through our survey:

I would like to see more joint projects between the universities and colleges and the youth of Columbia through the public schools and/or community organizations.

Most leaders do not interact with all the citizens! #1 would help break down these walls of economic and culture differences. It may allow a larger group of people to cross these cultural/ economic lines.

James Brown said, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; open up the door, and and I’ll get it my self. Education and shared experiences are the keys to open doors!

What divides are you concerned about?  What bridges would you like to see built?  Join us and other citizens for an in-person forum this Tuesday, September 20, from 7 to 9 pm at the Tribune’s offices. Enter from Walnut street.  We hope to see you there.

 

What’s In A Word?

A lot can be in a single word, including fear, distrust and misunderstanding. Sometimes identity – the question of “are you with me or against me” is embedded in that single word.

The emotions and unspoken questions that underlie our words can easily flare into conflict when we don’t stop to check our definitions.

Let’s consider the word “profiling.”  Recently members of our community stated their belief that profiling happens, the police chief questioned that belief, and emotions flared. Yet it’s not clear, reading the published reports and comments, that all those involved are using the same definition of the word.

Some would define profiling as disparate impact.  With this definition, the statistical disparities in the reported data on traffic stops are conclusive evidence of disparate impact, and thus of “profiling.”  The police chief admits that implicit bias is present in some officers, yet said that his department does not profile.  His comments in context suggest he might be using a different definition than disparate impact. When he says there is no profiling, he might mean that there is no departmental policy or formal intent to encourage the targeting of minorities.

Is there evidence of disparate impact in traffic stops? Yes there is. Are there reports of personal experiences that show bias and fear?  Yes there are. Is there a systematic policy and intentional targeting across the department of minority citizens? That is not so clear. Can we separate out the issues of statistics, experience, and policy, then examine those and see how they inform each other? Yes we can. Can we try to listen to each other as different perspectives are shared, and better translate the underlying fears and concerns? Yes we can.

What if we looked past the word “profiling” and talked instead about the specifics of what we know, what other information we might begin to gather, how we would like it be, what progress would look like, how it might be monitored, and how we might work together to make that progress? Could we make progress? Maybe we could.

Share your own thoughts and experiences in the comment section below or send an email to editor@columbiatribune.com with “Trib Talks forum” in the subject line.

Are We An Us? Part 3

Our forum participants asked the question “are we an us?” long before the violence of the last two weeks left leaders nationwide calling for dialogue. Efforts by local leaders to create more dialogue included a news conference where the issue of racial profiling was discussed, and an open mic event sponsored by MU’s Black Studies department.

To make a difference, dialogue needs to be sustained. It’s up to each of us to reach out, to listen, to share our own thoughts, to listen again, and to stay engaged.

Wondering where you might start? You can start by downloading the community dialogue guide “Are We An Us?“, or one of the related mini-guides, “Addressing Inequities“, “Citizen Centered Planning“, or “Building Bridges“.  We also have a checklist which will help you plan dialogues within your neighborhood or organization and report back in on thoughts shared.

The Tribune publication “Sharp End”, published in 2015, can also serve as a starting point for discussions about race in Columbia, as can the documentary “Battle: Change From Within“.  The “Charleston Syllabus,” which was created in response to the June 2015 murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina provides many additional resources.

Do you have additional resources to share?  Add your suggestions in the comment section below.

More Divides

In addition to healing divisions reflecting age, class and race,  participants in our February forum further identified a need to build bridges of communication and collaboration between City and County governments, City government and citizens, and  citizens and City staff.  The Battle students raised the question of how to strengthen connections between schools and community. Several people observed that without proactive dialogue between citizens, planners, and elected leaders, Columbia runs the risk of developing a geographic divide between North and South Columbia, like the geographic divides that exist in the St. Louis area.    Holding regular community dialogues within school buildings could begin to address some of these issues.

Other communities, including  Carbondale IL, have used sustained community dialogue to help solve difficult issues.  Columbia headed in that direction with the Imagine Columbia’s Future visioning process, although that dialogue was not sustained following that process in the ways envisioned by the public.  What could a “community commons” for dialogue look like in Columbia?  What might we accomplish by working together?

Building Bridges – Healing Divides

Participants in our February 11 forum identified many ways in which Columbia is divided. These included divides between neighbors and neighborhoods that reflect differences in race, age, income, and political affiliation. These divides need more than a bridge to bring people together – underlying distrust, fear and anger need to be addressed as well.

An articulate and thoughtful group of students from Battle High School attended the forum.  These students have been working hard at creating programs to help students work through the community divisions that are reflected within their school.  We have invited them to tell us more on this blog, both through the comment section and in future posts.

There are other groups working in the community to build bridges or heal divides.  These include Race Matters, Friends and Diversity Awareness Partnership.  If you are involved in an effort to bring diverse groups together in dialogue let us know in the comment section below.

 

Join Us Thursday Feb 11 at 7 pm

Join us tomorrow evening for the Trib Talks forum “Are We An Us?’  The world-cafe style forum will be held at the ARC, 1701W. Ash St., at 7 pm. We will dig deeper into themes that emerged during our last session and our on-line forums.

These were citizen centered planning, addressing inequities, and building bridges.

What is citizen-centered planning?  One thing it involves is leadership that accurately informs citizens.  During our last forum citizens expressed a desire for the Trib to make it easier for them to track coverage on complex issues, like the current transmission line controversy.  The Trib has responded with a new archive on infrastructure issues.  Come and share additional thoughts on how our planning for growth might be improved.

There are many groups in Columbia working to address needs for food and shelter.  Affordable housing, and outreach through efforts like Project Homeless Connect have been in the news. Bring your ideas on what more might be done.

And over the last month uniting the diverse elements of our community has been a theme of many events – from the the city-sponsored diversity breakfast, to a unity concert, to a multicultural cooking class sponsored by the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture. Come and share your thoughts on how we might bridge our gaps.

Join us at the ARC and here on-line!

 

 

A Bridge Begun

The healing power of music was evident on Saturday night as the Columbia Chorale, Columbia Youth Choirs and Community Gospel Choir combined for a community concert promoting unity at the Missouri United Methodist Church.  The choir was diverse, the audience was diverse and the music was enjoyed by all who packed the pews, both on the main floor and the balcony. The program notes for “Where Do We Go From Here”, composed by the Community Gospel Choir conductor Lamont Walker and featuring the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., included this statement:

Right now, the Columbia Community is in need of unity to usher in healing to the broken, hurting, wounded, and oppressed. Sincere, authentic, and unconditional love for mankind will break down all of the walls and barriers that divide us.  It is that love that will bind hate, pierce color lines, and demand justice for all.”

Judging from the attendance, there are many in Columbia looking to bridge that which divides us.

Are We An Us?

The Trib Talks forums to date have made it clear that the citizens of Columbia are concerned about where we are going as a community.  The rapid growth over the last 10 years has resulted in tensions and stressed existing divides of place and race, town and gown, “old” and “new” Columbia.  How can we as citizens heal the divides?  Key approaches discussed during the forums were to use more “citizen centered” planning,  address existing inequities, and build bridges between groups. We will consider each of these further on this blog, and on our February 11 forum.  Add your thoughts below, or take our survey.