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Midwest Convening on Racial Equity

April 25, 2016 @ 8:00 am - 4:30 pm UTC-5



Date: April 25, 2016
Time: Sign-in and breakfast begins at 8am; program from 9 to 4:30
Location: Student Center East, University of Illinois at Chicago
Lodging: Out-of-town guests have access to a reduced fee ($159) room at the Crowne Plaza Metro Downtown. Reservations must be made online, via this booking link or by phone, (312) 829-5000 by April 13, 2016. Please mention Group Code CS5 when making reservations.
Registration: $125, with scholarships available (purchase tickets)

The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), the Center for Social Inclusion, and Communities United are pleased to announce a Midwest Convening on Racial Equity that will bring together people from government, community organizations, and leaders from across the Midwest region who are strategically adopted cutting edge tools and strategies that leverage the power of government to advance racial equity and increase success for all our communities.

The goals of the Midwest Convening on Racial Equity:

  • Increase understanding and commitment to racial equity and the role that government can play in advancing equity.
  • Share local and national racial equity effective practices.
  • Further cross-jurisdictional, cross-community, and cross-sector strategies for racial equity with partners in housing, criminal justice, employment, education, transportation, public health, immigrant groups and environmental justice.
  • Foster post-convening collaboration with community organizations and local jurisdictions and develop a regional network of government working to advance racial equity in the Midwest.
  • Serve as foundational event to solidify partnerships and frameworks among community partners and identify allies and champions within government to advance racial equity.

The Convening will feature nationally and locally recognized plenary speakers and a series of workshops from racial equity leaders across the Midwest, including from community and in government. As a result of these events, we anticipate there will be a growing number of government leaders and staff who have an understanding of the opportunity to normalize conversations about race, operationalize new policies and organizational cultures, and organize within and across institutions in partnership with community to achieve racial equity.

The transformation of government along with community partnership is essential for us to advance racial equity and is critical to our success as a nation.


8:00 am Registration begins
8:45 – 10:15 am Opening session

  • Communities United
  • Glenn Harris, President, Center for Social Inclusion
  • Kurt Summers, Chicago City Treasurer

Overview of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE)

  • Julie Nelson, GARE Director
  • Dwayne Marsh, GARE Deputy Director

GARE’s focus is on normalizing conversations about race, operationalizing new behaviors and policies, and organizing to achieve racial equity. We are seeing more and more jurisdictions that are making a commitment to achieving racial equity, focusing on the power and influence of their own institutions, and working in partnership across sectors and with the community to maximize impact. There is an increasingly strong field of practice. We are organizing in government with the belief that the transformation of government is essential for us to advance racial equity and is critical to our success as a nation.

“We Can Do Better, We Must Do Better: Opportunities For Government to Advance Racial Equity” – A panel of regional leaders who will highlight work within their respective jurisdictions to advance racial equity and throw down the gauntlet for us to collectively do better.

  • Moderators – Julie Nelson, GARE Director, and Dwayne Marsh, GARE Deputy Director
  • Alderman Sawyer, Chicago, IL
  • Commissioner Garcia, Cook County, IL
  • Leon Andrews, Racial Equity and Leadership Initiative, National League of Cities
  • Jennifer B. Ringold, Deputy Superintendent, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
10:15 – 10:30 am Break
10:30 – 11:45 am Workshops – Session 1
12 – 1:30 pm Lunch
How We Talk About Race – The Role of the Media
How we talk about race matters. Our messaging and narratives either perpetuate the status quo of racial inequities or helps support new narratives about racial equity. We need journalists who are helping to advance racial equity. This session will feature:

  • Opening Remarks – Toi Hutchinson, Illinois State Senator
  • Simran Noor, Vice-President of Policy and Programs at the Center for Social Inclusion
  • The Role of the Media – A conversation with Jamie Kalven, journalist at The Invisible Institute, and Mary Mitchell, columnist with the Chicago Sun Times
1:45 – 3 pm Workshops – Session 2
3 – 3:15pm Break
3:15 – 4:30 pm Panel Discussion – Eliminating Institutional Racism in Criminal Justice
On-the-ground leaders from Cook County, IL; Tacoma, WA; Maplewood, MN and Minneapolis, MN will discuss emerging strategies to eliminate patterns of institutional racism in criminal justice. Panelists will speak to the trajectory of criminal justice – from its origins as a system to maintain racial oppression, to the struggles for civil rights, to the emerging present-day partnerships with communities of color in light of #BlackLivesMatter and other calls for accountability and action.

  • Moderater – Glenn Harris, President of Center for Social Inclusion and former city of Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative manager, where he led the establishment of Seattle’s Community Police Commission
  • Opening – Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President (invited)
    • Amy Campanelli, Cook County Public Defender
    • Chief Kathy Mc Alpine, City of Tacoma Assistant
    • Jason Sole, Author of “From Prison to Ph.D.: Memoir of Hope, Resilience and Second Chances,” adjunct professor at Metro State University, and consultant providing training to help with at-risk-youth and criminal justice agencies in Minnesota
    • Paul Schnell, Police Chief in Maplewood, MN
4:30 – 5:00 pm Closing

  • Call to Action – Candice Moore, Chicago Alliance for Racial Equity
  • Next Steps – Advancing racial equity and creating an inclusive and effective democracy – Dwayne Marsh, Government Alliance on Race and Equity

Morning Workshops

Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline and building community capacity while transforming government.

From schools to the criminal justice system, institutional and structural racism are resulting in the disproportionate incarceration of young people of color. This workshop will highlight inside-outside strategies in Chicago, IL and Fairfax County, VA that are working to transform systems and structures to shut down the school to prison pipeline to the benefit of our young people. We will highlight the importance of policy change, community organizing, and internal leadership and advocates for change.

Title Presenters
1. Authentic Community Engagement
Building community capacity and transforming government.

How can we build long-term capacity of community to effectively engage in public service? What are the creative ways of engaging community and transforming government? Terri Thao of Nexus Community Partners who directs the Twin Cities Boards and Commission Leadership Institute in partnership with David Rubedor of the City of Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations department will share their unique partnership that works to improve racial equity in board and commission membership, which in turn influences major policy decisions toward more equitable outcomes. Join us for an interactive discussion on what it takes to ensure success on both the “inside” of government and “outside” in community. Come ready to share what you are doing in your respective communities and with questions you may have for Terri and David about the work in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

  • Terri Thao (Lead), Nexus Community Partners
  • David Rubedor, Neighborhood and Community Relations Department, City of Minneapolis

2. Institutionalized Equity
Building capacity and infrastructure and using racial equity tools.

The City of Madison, WI, routinely appears on “Best Of” lists (Most Livable, Best Biking Cities, Top US Growth Cities, Healthiest, Happiest, etc.), and at the same time experiences some of the most severe racialized inequities of any place in the country. In an effort to be a part of community-wide solutions, the City of Madison is working to “get its own house in order” by modeling the difficult changes of embedding racial equity concepts throughout City infrastructure. Building an interdepartmental team, implementing enterprise-wide trainings, and utilizing racial equity tools has helped to further the mission of establishing racial equity and social justice as core principles in all decisions, policies, and functions of the City of Madison.

  • Glenn Harris, Center for Social Inclusion
  • Jordan Bingham (Lead), Madison / Dane County
  • Toriana Pettaway, City of Madison

3. Innovative Policy Formation
An example from the Metropolitan Council’s Regional Parks System in Minnesota

Data is key to racial equity work. However, too often data is used to identify existing disparities with little emphasis on solution identification. Moving beyond disparity data, this session will illustrate how to approach data gathering aimed to inform changes in policy, using the Metropolitan Council’s work as an example. The Metropolitan Council conducted over 20 focus groups with people of color to explore underlying barriers and issues that produced disparate impacts. The recommendations that were gleaned from the sessions were qualitatively analyzed and used to inform policy development. This session will highlight the approach used, the policy outcomes, and the lessons learned.

  • Raintry Salk (Lead), Metropolitan Council, Minnesota

4. Educate Don’t Incarcerate
  • Jose Sanchez, Campaign Coordinator of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education
  • Marlon Murphy, Fairfax County, VA

5. The Intersections of Health and Racial Equity
Practitioners, policymakers, and government officials have been examining the social determinants of health (SDOH) framework for over a decade. Health departments and other health serving organizations have made efforts to disaggregate data based on race. Despite these efforts, race-based, health disparities are persistent and (depending on the indicator) deepening. Center for Social Inclusion has been looking at the connections between health and racial equity, deepening understanding of how a structural race analysis is at play, even within a SDOH framework. In addition, health departments across the country, have been leading their own internal conversations to move towards internal and external structures, systems and policies that can support reducing (and eliminating) health disparities. In this session, we will have an opportunity to hear a framing of the intersections between race and health, from a structural race perspective. We will also have the opportunity to learn about the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, undergoing an institutional change process focused on racial equity and social justice and Healthy Communities Cook County (HC3), a coalition made of community organizations, labor groups and policy organizations. HC3 is working with Cook County commissioners to address the lack of access for preventative and primary resources available in black and brown communities and for out of status immigrants. We will have a chance to learn about their internal change process journey and insights and lessons as they move forward.
  • Simran Noor (Lead), Vice-President of Policy and Programs, Center for Social Inclusion
  • Rebekah Gowler, New York City Department of Health
  • Fash Khan, Healthcare Organizer with Communities United working with the Healthy Communities Cook County Campaign

6. Government Transformation in Action
Making The Connection Between Trauma, Healing, and Racial Equity

Governments in partnership with communities are seeking to better define and integrate the connection between trauma, healing, and racial equity, in our systems, our institutions, and in ourselves. Hear from Sonali Sangeeta Balajee, Senior Policy Advisor on the Equity and Empowerment Lens in Multnomah County government, and Terry Keleher, Thought Leadership and Practice Specialist at Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation on how government and nonprofit organizations are striving to learn from, lead with, and embody this integrated reality. Participants will share wisdom, strategies, and learnings from their own communities, building capacity and connection together for transformative outcomes.

  • Sonali Balajee, Equity and Empowerment Lens Analyst with Multnomah County
  • Terry Keleher/strong>, RaceForward

Afternoon Workshops

Title Presenters
1. Racial Equity Action Plans
A vision without a plan is not going to change much. How to develop action plans that drive systemic change.

Development of Racial Equity Plans provide a critical opportunity to move from talk to action, and are a mechanism for transparency and clarity about concrete actions. This workshop will feature Ryan Curren, Racial Equity Analyst with the City of Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, and Simran Noor, Vice President of Programs and Policy at the Center for Social Inclusion. Noor and Curren will share one of GARE’s newest resource guides, “Moving from Talk to Action: Development and Implementation of a Racial Equity Action Plan.”

  • Simran Noor (Lead), Vice President of Programs and Policy at the Center for Social Inclusion
  • Ryan Curren, Racial Equity Analyst with the City of Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights

2. Inside – Outside Strategies
Relationships between government and community based organizations to advance racial equity.

When government and community share a vision for racial equity and are committed to taking action, new relationships are possible. In this workshop, Ottawa County Administrator Al Vandenberg and Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance Director Gail Harrison will share their unique partnership to develop a shared vocabulary and understanding of racial equity. LEDA has provided racial equity training to more than 700 Ottawa County staff.

  • Al Vandenberg, Ottawa County Administrator
  • Gail Harrison (Lead), Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance Director
  • Alfredo Hernandez, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance

3. Re-imagining Justice
What would a racially equitable justice system look like? Moving from theory to action
  • ReImagine Justice Illinois

4. Public Sector Jobs
Opportunities to advance racial equity as an employer.

For the public sector to proactively advance racial equity, it is important that our own workforces reflect the diversity of our communities across all functions and up and down hierarchy. Although many jurisdictions have broken down barriers for entry, challenges remain in specific functions and with upward mobility. A critical aspect of city and local government efforts to advance racial equity is within their own workforce. This workshop will focus on policies, practices and real stories from jurisdictions that are a part of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity network.

  • Julie Nelson (Lead), Government Alliance on Race and Equity
  • Anika Fassia, Public Works / Indivisible

5. Racial Equity
Working across sectors for collective impact.

To eliminate racial inequities in the community, the work of government is necessary, but not sufficient. We know we have to work across sectors to address structural racism. This workshop will feature two such approaches. First, learn how the city of Dubuque, a community that is experiencing rapidly changing demographics and other challenges related to race, has engaged in a network of leaders from faith, labor, education, business, nonprofits and philanthropy to advance racial justice and social equity. Find out how this growing network engaging a diverse group of partners in a common vision by organizing people, identifying opportunities and taking action. Learn how the city of Dubuque has taken a challenging Voluntary Compliance Agreement with HUD and is leveraging it as an opportunity to normalize the conversation about race and to begin to infuse equity tools in city government. We will then move to the Twin Cities, where the MN Stadium Commission achieved its 32 percent minority employment and subcontracting goals for construction of the new Vikings stadium. Steadfast political leadership from the commission and public accountability for tracking progress were integral to making this happen. The focus in both of these examples is partnerships for advancing the work of equity in the governmental sector and expanding beyond to achieve equitable outcomes in the community.

  • Kelly Larson (Lead), City of Dubuque
  • Gordon F. Goodwin, MAP for Nonprofits

5. Racial Equity as an Asset for Equitable Development
Over the past decade, equitable development has become a compelling frame for local governments and community based advocates alike to advance policies that support the low income and populations of color. Increasingly new tools are emerging that allow for a more explicit analysis on how to ensure that racial equity drives this approach and has meaningful impact for communities most squarely at risk of being displaced from the primary economy of the region. Hear two leading edge approaches that have managed to transform neighborhoods to lead with a specific attention to race as they promote positive community development through significant policy and investment initiatives. In Oak Park, IL, trace a multi-decade initiative designed to create a multicultural community that prioritizes meaningful public engagement, distributive resources, and effective mixed-income neighborhoods to create an ethic of racial integration and cooperation. In Seattle, see how public agencies mobilized existing multicultural businesses and community leaders to create their own inoculation against dramatically intensifying forces of residential and commercial displacement with the advent of the new light rail system through historic communities of color.
  • Dwayne Marsh (Lead), Government Alliance on Race and Equity
  • Nora Liu, GARE and former Senior Advisor City of Seattle Office of Policy and Community Development
  • Rob Breymaier, Executive Director Oak Park Regional Housing Center / West Cook Homeownership Center / Austin Ascending


Foundation Partners


In Illinois

  • 6th Ward Alderman Sawyer
  • 33rd Ward Alderman Deborah Mell
  • 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
  • 36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas
  • 7th District Cook County Commissioner Jesus G. Garcia
  • 10th District Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer
  • Blocks Together Chicago*
  • Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA)
  • Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Cook County Health and Hospitals System
  • Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights*
  • Lawyers Committee for Better Housing*
  • Patrick O’Bryan, Executive Director at Center for Catholic Social Thought and Action
  • United Congress of Community & Religious Organizations*

In Iowa

  • Iowa City
  • City of Dubuque

In Minnesota

  • City of Minneapolis
  • Metropolitan Council
  • Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board*

In Wisconsin

  • City of Madison
  • Dane County

National League of Cities Racial Equity and Leadership Initiative

*Special appreciation to members of the Coalition Advancing Racial Equity Coalition who greatly contributed to the creation of this convening. Without their hard work and leadership, the Convening would not have been possible. Their work to put ideas into action, and to transform government into an effective and inclusive democracy that advances racial equity is critical to our success as a nation.



April 25, 2016
8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Event Category:



Student Center East, University of Illinois at Chicago
750 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60607 United States
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(312) 413-5100