Study circles discuss diversity

Monday, January 24, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

If you want to break down barriers of race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation, then “Let’s Talk Columbia,” a community study-circles program, is for you.

Each study circle consists of of eight to 12 people from different backgrounds and viewpoints who meet to talk about an issue. Trained volunteer facilitators keep the discussion moving forward.

The study circles provide a platform to talk about diversity issues. Identity and relations among different groups of people are at the heart of community concerns.

“The purpose of the program is to bring citizens from diverse backgrounds together to dialogue about race relations,” said Nanette Ward, coordinator of the program.

Since its inception in 2001, more than 350 people have participated in the program. Gov. Matt Blunt presented the 2005 Martin Luther King Commission Award to Ward during a ceremony at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.

The first community-wide event was held in April 2002, with 56 participants.

“I was real impressed with the program itself,” said Wanda Cason, a participant in a previous circle. “We spoke about housing, law, legislature. Another subject was minority housing.”

Cason plans to be a volunteer in this year’s program and said she hopes Columbia City Council members will participate.

The program, which is sponsored by the Human Rights Commission, is organized by the action team composed of people from all walks of life.

The monthly study circles program, a branch of “Let’s Talk Columbia,” started last January. Community circles are intended to promote and sustain meaningful dialogue that will increase understanding of issues of diversity. The theme of this month’s community circle will be “A taste of ‘Let’s Talk Columbia’ 2005.” It will be from 6 to 8:45 p.m. Thursday at the Columbia Public Library Friends Room.

The 2005 annual round of “Let’s Talk Columbia” will be Feb. 26 and 27 at the Unity Center of Columbia, where 30 to 50 participants of diverse backgrounds are expected to participate.

Registration is free. The last date for registration is Feb. 4. Register online at or call 874-7488 to request a brochure.

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