(BLOOMINGTON) – Facilitators from the Divided Community Project’s (DCP) Bridge Initiative@Moritz will return to Bloomington Friday, February 21 to meet with community members previously interviewed for the project’s report released in December 2019.
The meeting will present an opportunity for those interviewed to provide feedback to the report, confirm its representation of community concerns, and discuss ways to expand public involvement as the report’s recommended action steps proceed.
The report’s findings are drawn from interviews with City employees and community leaders — including non-traditional leaders not officially affiliated with local institutions or organizations — conducted by a Bridge Initiative facilitator during three trips to Bloomington during the fall of 2019. Mayor John Hamilton sought out the group’s services after reaching out to several national sources in August 2019 when escalating tensions spurred the temporary suspension of the City-run Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market.
“As we forge a path toward a more just and inclusive future in Bloomington, we look to our community, and especially those who’ve been affected by racism and discrimination, to lead the process of healing and building bridges among different individuals and groups,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “The Bridge Initiative is offering some tools to support that process.”
While market issues prompted the connection with the Bridge Initiative, the project focuses on potential long-standing, divisive issues related to race and discrimination within the greater Bloomington community and strategies for addressing them. At the February 21 meeting, participants will also consider ways to implement the report’s recommendation of forming an independent, community task force. Future meetings to convene this suggested body will be shared through all of the City’s communication channels and be open to the public.
The following week, a group of eight City staff and community members will participate in a training designed to strengthen skills and tools to support the work identified in the Bridge Initiative report. Bloomington participants will join those from three other cities selected from applicants across the country to participate in a National Academy hosted by DCP in partnership with the American Bar Association’s Section of Dispute Resolution. Scheduled to take place in Chicago March 1-3, the program “We, the People: Strengthening Democratic Engagement to Address Civil Unrest for Community Leaders” seeks to strengthen conflict resolution-related planning and capacity building. Through the support of the AAA-ICDR Foundation, the Academy is free for the selected communities, with airfare, lodging, and meals also provided.