In 2010, the Gainesville City Commission adopted the Dismantling Prejudices & Biases Initiative as an effort to address the issue of racism, particularly institutional racism, and the centuries’ long impact of such a phenomenon. A group of community citizens, known as the Change Team was formed in 2007 to carry the city’s torch in this great endeavor. The first activity of the Initiative was the creation of the study circle concept of community dialogue. The critical aspect of this type of activity is the recruitment of citizens to participate in the study circles. The OEO office has used a variety of methods to recruit citizens, such as a film festival, and a community forum on prejudice and bias. Once citizens are assigned to a study circle, they agree to meet with 10-12 other participants for six weeks (one night per week), to discuss pertinent and personal aspects of race, bias and prejudice.
As each round of study circles conclude, citizens are invited to participate in larger groups known as action forums. Each action forum consists of a mixture of persons from the various study circles, and is distinguished by subject matter such as education, health, economic development, criminal justice and transportation. The goal of each action forum is to address matters that may exist in Gainesville as a result of discrimination, institutional or otherwise. Resolution of these issues may be via petition to the city commission, county commission, school board, or other policy making entity in Gainesville or Alachua County.
Aside from study circles, this initiative includes panel discussions to engage the community in current and timely topics on the national level that impacts the City of Gainesville. This is conducted in collaboration with other organizations or with the OEO as the sole event organizer. The initiative also includes a “Dessert and Dialogue” series bringing the community together to discuss issues facing the community for approximately 90 minutes while the group enjoys dessert. The OEO also conducts film viewings highlighting a documentary as it relates to some form of prejudice and bias, in a facilitated group session.
Dismantling Racism – Study Circle Application
Dismantling Racism – Press Release