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How large is a dialogue group?
On average, groups have 12-15 participants. Some groups have had as many as 18-24 participants.
Is it free?
Yes, it is free to all participants. Also, dialogues are located with free parking and a nearby bus route in mind. We are able to provide this experience at no charge because all the facilitators are volunteers and location space is donated.
Dialogue is open to anyone in high school or older who is interested in finding out about dialogue, wants to explore the topic of race, and wants to experience sharing and hearing personal stories about how race impacts our lives. We have participants as young as 17 and as old and wise as 94.
Is experience needed?
No experience is needed for the Introductory dialogue series that is designed to orient everyone to how dialogue works and to familiarize participants with the guides used to support dialogue. There are Ongoing dialogue series, open to anyone who has completed an Introductory series.
Am I limited to talking about race?
Yes and no. There are varieties of social identities and of oppression. In order to explore the impact of race on our lives more deeply, we focus on race in dialogue. We acknowledge the intersection of all identities and welcome sharing of how your racial identity is impacted by your other identities.
Why 8 weeks? Why not drop in?
The dialogue series is 8 weeks with the same group of people because it builds familiarity and mutual trust among all of the participants. It also provides enough exposure that a point of closure (at least for the time being) can be reached.
If different people showed up each week, it would be harder to build trust and the dialogue would lose the continuity. Having the same participants weekly throughout a series allows the group to revisit stories, make connections with one another, and share a common experience.
Why is dialogue 90 minutes?
90 minutes is long enough to get somewhere with the topic and short enough to hold people’s attention.
What is the role of the facilitator?
There are always at least two co-facilitators who share the job of helping the group stay dialogic. Our facilitators do not share, direct, or teach. Their role is to support the group so dialogue can take place. They make space for all voices, reflect what has been shared, and encourage participants to do the same.
What happens when some people do all the talking?
Our facilitators will help everyone to share time, rather than monologues, preaching or teaching.
Do you split into pairs or smaller groups? If not, why not?
We intentionally dialogue as a whole group, rather than splitting into pairs or smaller groups, for several reasons. First, we believe that dialoguing as a whole group allows you to witness each other’s experience as a group and gives you a sense of togetherness. It also helps break through barriers and break out of isolation. Second, the group may reach a level of self-awareness and understanding that dialoguing in pairs or subgroups does not provide. Third, participants are exposed to a wide spectrum of experiences together when dialoguing as a group and to hear and hold many truths, which increases the ability to understand and connect with each other.
Will people get angry with what I say?
That is a common concern people have when talking about race. Sometimes, exchange in dialogue does get heated or highly emotional. Facilitators help participants feel supported in sharing and receiving stories and experiences in a respectful environment.
Is the group always diverse? Is it 50/50 People of Color and White?
Representation of different racial identities varies from group to group. We intentionally do not orchestrate who attends. The participants who show up are those who want to dialogue about race. The richness of the dialogue is determined by how thoughtfully participants share and reflect on their experience with race and racism.
In addition, we occasionally hold race-specific dialogues, e.g. a series designed for People of Color or a series designed for White participants. These types of dialogues provide a space to share and explore the effects of race, racism and/or oppression. This format also allows for the beginning of the process of healing with those who might share common experiences based on racial identity.
Can a White person contribute to the dialogue about race?
Yes. We believe that race and racism impacts all of us like the air we breathe. White people are impacted by race and racism as well and can contribute their experiences to the dialogue about race. We provide reflection questions every week to help participants reflect on how race and racism impacts them.
What happens if I miss one or more times?
Life happens. Facilitators appreciate your letting us know if you will be absent. The more times you attend, the more you will get out of it and the more the group will get from your participation. If you foresee that you will miss more than 3 times, consider waiting until the next series when you are able to participate more regularly and get the full benefit.
Where do you meet? Why does the location change?
We meet in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor and the neighboring towns and cities to make the dialogues more accessible to different neighborhoods.
Hosts: Ann Arbor Community Center, Brown Chapel AME Church, Carrot Way Community Center, Church of the Good Shepherd, Community Church of God, The Corner Health Center, Journey of Faith Christian Church, Parkridge Community Center, Second Baptist Church, Washtenaw Community College