Friday, November 09, 2001

Neighborhoods will be buzzing

By David K. Hofmeister
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A groundbreaking series of neighborhood discussions on race will kick off Sunday, giving residents the chance to be heard on ways to reduce racial tensions in Greater Cincinnati.

        “Neighbor to Neighbor Community Conversations on Race” will take place in dozens of Tristate locations over the coming six weeks. About 120 people or organizations have signed up to host conversations in just over half the neighborhoods in the region.

        The first will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at John Wesley United Methodist Church, 1927 W. Kemper Road, Springfield Township.

        Neighbor to Neighbor is the first program of its kind to be sponsored by the Enquirer, and is believed to be one of the first ever attempted by a newspaper nationally on such a scale. It has been endorsed by dozens of community organizations, churches and corporations, as well as the Cincinnati Media Collaborative.

        The initiative will give hundreds of residents the opportunity to not only talk about the issues, but to devise actions they and community leaders can take.

        “The usual voices we hear are from officials or experts. Now it's time for regular folks to be heard on the question, "What should we do to ease racial tensions?'” said Rosemary Goudreau, Enquirer managing editor.

        “This conversation is different because it will happen in neighborhoods across the region, not just the city,” Ms. Goudreau said. “It's also solutions-oriented, designed to move from talk to action. And it's a chance for citizens to tell community leaders where they should place their priorities.”

        People who have volunteered to host a conversation say they were drawn by the broad reach of the initiative.

        “In ways visible and invisible, we are all connected,” said the Rev. Larry Krebs, pastor of John Wesley UMC. “When there is misunderstanding, hurt, it's good for the whole community to look to understand the issues, so that long-term, loving and just solutions can come.”

        Tonya Huggins, director of diversity for the Health Alliance, said the company has sought opportunities to help the city heal since the riots in April.

        “What stood out about Neighbor to Neighbor is its holistic approach. It goes beyond the boundaries of the city,” Ms. Huggins said.

        Participation by suburban residents is critical to the success of Neighbor to Neighbor, and more hosts are needed in communities outside the beltway, Ms. Goudreau said.

        For information, check Call (513) 755-4145 with questions.


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