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Community Conversations: Talking past the politics

The Dallas Examiner | 3/17/2014, 9:51 a.m.

The Dallas Examiner

“We, the people, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.”

– President Barack Obama

Last spring at the end of the series of Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates, Dr. Harry Robinson and several of our sponsors expressed an interest in continuing the dialog that we had started with during the political forum series, i.e. meeting candidates for elected office, hearing and discussing upcoming issues in the state Legislature, discussing community issues, etc. The Dallas Examiner agreed to present a series of conversations and call them Community Conversations. We held a planning meeting with Monday Night Politics sponsors and developed some of the pressing issues in the community where there needs to be dialog to increase awareness, understanding and/or solutions.

Unfortunately, last summer many of our sponsors were committed to attending national conventions and could not support the conversations, as they would like to. So, the forums were postponed.

This year, we made a greater effort to develop a schedule that would better fit the schedules of those who want to be involved. Moreover, we made a great commitment to bring Conversations to the community.

Community Conversations are solution-driven conversations with a moderator and experts on the issue. There will be an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, as well as a solution-oriented discussion period with the audience.

Some of the topics will be education, access to health care, closing the health care gap, accountability of elected officials, quality of business in Black neighborhoods, Black philanthropy – building and supporting our own community, strengthening the Black family, economic development and the importance of Black Press.

Community Conversations will be modeled after MNP with the audience being able to participate directly.

The Dallas Examiner has been presenting MNP for seven years and we have tried different types of forums. Forums where the audience is given white index cards to write their questions on and the moderator reads the questions, a panel from the community asking the questions to the candidates, a forum where the moderator asks a majority of the questions. However, for the last couple of years we have allowed the audience to ask their questions directly to the candidates, elected official, expert panelists. This model has worked. We experienced excellent participation from the community for this type of forum.

Our first Community Conversation, moderated by Casey Thomas, will be March 31 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the African American Museum at Fair Park. The topic will be “Closing the Generation Gap.” A special effort is being made to get the younger generation out to participate in the forum.

There are many issues affecting the African American Community today. We need to have open conversations about them in order to develop solutions. We hope that at the end of each Conversation we will decide on actions that can be taken by individuals and the community to improve, uplift and support each other and the community as a whole.

If you’re part of the community, you can be part of the solutions. We hope you will come join us and bring your family, along with your questions and/or suggestions for solutions.

As John F. Kennedy once stated, “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies.” As community members working together for a common goal, we can be our own greatest allies.

Be part of the conversation. Send your letters to mbelt@dallasexaminer.com.