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Toledo coalition to address city’s implicit biases

Forum for leaders, citizens

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    A large crowd listens during a previous version of the Toledo Community Coalition's public forum on combating racism. The next such event will be held June 13.

    THE BLADE
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The Toledo Community Coalition will ask the city’s leaders and citizens alike to address their implicit bias at its latest “Changing Minds and Changing Lives: Combating Racism” forum.

Everyone holds some degree of bias, whether they realize it or not, and that bias often prevents marginalized groups from having a voice in their community, coalition chairman the Rev. Otis Gordon said.

“We all have biases,” Pastor Gordon said. “We have to recognize that we have biases, but also how can we bring our biases to the table and impact change so that we can create a more inclusive society that does not alienate anyone?”

Leaders from Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity will discuss implicit bias — attitudes or stereotypes that unconsciously affect how people interact with one another — and how it relates to civic engagement during the June 13 event at Bowsher High.

It’s part of the coalition’s ongoing efforts to improve race relations in Toledo, and is sponsored by the coalition, The Blade, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, the YWCA, Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, and the Multifaith Council of Northwest Ohio. Organizers expect 300 to 500 people to attend.

Bob Cole, managing attorney at ABLE and forum organizer, said the presentation will be twofold. Once participants learn how to identify their biases, the discussion will shift to how people can overcome those biases and create engaged, accepting communities. Political, business, and nonprofit leaders will learn how to be more inclusive, and individuals will learn how to be more engaged to affect change.

“This is part of the ongoing mission of the Toledo Community Coalition, to try and raise awareness around issues that affect the inclusion or exclusion of certain segments of the community,” Mr. Cole said. “One of the critical issues for community members who feel disenfranchised or feel that they do not necessarily have a voice in the development of policies that affect their particular community or neighborhood.”

Forum organizers said racism and implicit bias impacts all cities, not just Toledo, and it takes community buy-in to combat it.

“I think Toledo should be commended for at least taking the steps to begin the conversation about racism. It’s a worldwide problem,” Pastor Gordon said. “To not talk about it is to not invite change, and I think the change begins with first having the conversation, and then conversation has to move to action.”

The forum is free and runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. More information is available at fcogtoledo.com or by calling 419-255-0098, ext. 204.

Contact Sarah Elms at: selms@theblade.com or 419-724-6103 or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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