| Program: || Beaver Race Initiative Development Group Effort, Beaver Falls, PA |
| Contact(s): || State Rep. Mike Veon: (717) 787-1290 or Zane Phoenix, Office of the State Representative: (724) 847-1352 |
| Purpose: || To promote racial reconciliation and unification by examining race relations in Pennsylvania |
In response to President Clinton's call in 1997 for a national dialogue on race relations, Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Veon initiated an effort at both the state and local level in Pennsylvania. Created to coincide with the President's town meeting on race in Akron, Ohio, in December 1997, the Beaver Race Initiative Development Group (BRIDGE) is modeled after the Study Circles Resource Center. (The Study Circles Resource Center has been highlighted by the President's Initiative on Race as a Promising Practice.)
State Rep. Veon launched BRIDGE by bringing together a group of people who are interested in the issue of race. Representatives from schools, businesses, churches and nonprofit organizations participate in the program. Some members of the group are also trained as facilitators of racial dialogues. Like the Study Circles Program, groups of 12 to 15 people are invited to share in an open discussion on race, with the help of a facilitator.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
BRIDGE has completed five study circle sessions involving nearly 500 people throughout the Beaver County, including the faculty of the Beaver Falls High School and most recently the students of that high school. The local initiative has received coverage in the local newspaper, Beaver County Times. In addition, the newspaper published an ongoing series of articles on race. A youth-focused program is planned for summer 1998, and churches in the area are also planning to participate in a greater capacity. In September 1997, State Rep. Veon introduced a resolution in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that directs the governor to establish a state commission on race relations. The resolution (HR 234) received bi-partisan support in the House and support from such groups as the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, the Pennsylvania Urban League and Pennsylvania chapter of the NAACP. The commission on race relations would examine the current state of race relations within Pennsylvania, review laws and policies, and report efforts at all levels that could promote racial harmony back to the President, governor and the state legislature.