COLUMBIA — More than 250 members of the community gathered in December to discuss an increase in violent crime, and the city Human Rights Commission wants to keep the conversation going.
The commission is asking teens and adults to participate next week in “Let’s Talk Columbia!, A Community Summit — From Dialogue to Action for a Better Columbia.”
In past years, racism and other issues of diversity were discussed during Let’s Talk Columbia! gatherings. Nanette Ward, a human rights educator at the commission, said the focus for the two-day event on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 will be different in response to a Dec. 18 community action meeting held by the Youth Community Coalition, or YC2, KRCG/Channel 13, and Inside Columbia magazine.
“The people who came out of the meeting were talking about youth, that there was a lot of crime being done by young people,” Ward said.
After receiving feedback from the meeting, the Human Rights Commission decided to change its Let’s Talk Columbia! program to continue addressing the issue and invited YC2 to be a partner in the event. Registration for the event has been extended to Feb. 22 and walk-ins are welcome.
“Because this is a whole different topic and reason for the event, we didn’t want barriers,” Ward said. “It is about a real critical issue in our community.”
Let’s Talk Columbia! will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 22 and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 23 at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, where the December meeting was held. There will be a follow-up Community Action Forum from 5:30 to 9 p.m. March 4 at Days Inn Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 I-70 Drive SW.
Registration information is available at the city’s Web page, GoColumbiaMO.com, or by calling 573-874-7488. The event is free, and child care is available by reserving space in advance. Boone County National Bank will provide lunch and snacks.
Organizers are asking for people to participate both days.
Ward said the event is about “citizens talking to fellow citizens about what can be done for the community.” She said she hopes the sessions will help engage youth in the community and “keep them from that generational disconnect.”
Attendees will meet in small groups of seven to 10 members guided in discussion by trained facilitators.
“We’ll be taking notes on what people say and present those to people who can take action,” YC2 Chairwoman Heather Windham said. The idea, she said, is to “look at the problem effectively rather than point the finger.”