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One America - Can't We All Just Get Along?

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One America

Program: Can't We All Just Get Along?, Lima, OH
Contact(s): David J. Berger, Mayor: (419) 228-5462
Purpose: To foster interracial dialogue and activities that promote friendships and community improvement projects

Background Program Operations Outcomes


In 1992, local racial tensions in Lima, Ohio, were exacerbated by the broadcast of the Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police officers. In response, the city of Lima, in partnership with Lima's clergy and the Ohio State University at Lima, developed a race relations program with technical assistance provided by the Study Circles Resource Center. (The Study Circles Resource Center has been highlighted by the President's Initiative on Race as a Promising Practice.) Lima Mayor David Berger initiated the first series of study circles among the clergy members. The focus was to provide a mechanism for people of diverse demographic backgrounds to get to know one another and to examine the way racism permeates and shapes the daily lives of Lima's citizens.

Program Operations

"Can't We All Just Get Along?" is a five-month program that encourages dialogue among individuals so they can explore racism as it permeates their daily lives. In this program, participants from predominantly white congregations were paired with people from predominantly black congregations. Program facilitators provided the group with techniques to keep the sessions focused and productive. The program involved over 1,250 people at 47 churches and the city's only synagogue. With the addition of the Allen-Lima Leadership Group, the initial program eventually expanded to include non-church affiliated groups such as business leaders, civic groups and the general public. Youth can participate in similar programs at their junior high and high schools.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The original church pairings have merged into 15 cluster groups of three to four groups, and the clusters are now governed by a council, chaired by representatives from the city of Lima. In 1996, a Resource Center for Violence Prevention was established as a means of moving from discussion to action. The center is implementing eight projects to promote diversity, including the production of a journal, Diversity Day. Local arts groups, including the Lima Symphony Orchestra, have established minority audience development committees to initiate minority outreach activities. A branch of the national community service organization Key Club has been established with interracial membership at Lima Senior High School. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton also mentioned Lima in her book, It Takes a Village.

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