The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 30, 2020 1:00 am

Initiative focuses on race divide

Fort Wayne United, partners to host speeches, roundtables


A broad coalition Tuesday unveiled a new plan to educate the Fort Wayne community about diversity and inclusion and begin to heal racial divides.

The United Front Initiative of Fort Wayne United will bring a series of communitywide training sessions on implicit bias and microaggression, sources and effects of stress in minorities, becoming an ally and active bystander and having difficult conversations.

The sessions will be led by Pascal Losambe, a native of Africa, who has a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Purdue University.

At a gathering of more than 150 people at Clyde Theatre, Joe Jordan, executive director of the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Clubs, said the programs will address issues that came to prominence in Fort Wayne in the demonstrations after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while being restrained by police.

“Unfortunately we can't change the history of this country when it comes to racial injustice,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry in introducing the initiative. “Racial discrimination happened and will continue to happen if we do not appropriately combat it. Right now, we have a unique opportunity to make a difference.”

Henry was instrumental in the formation of Fort Wayne United, which aims to enhance opportunities especially for young Black men and boys.

Iric Headley, director of Fort Wayne United, said the initiative will provide 14 monthly keynote talks by Losambe at the Clyde followed up by small group virtual meetings and roundtables.

It's time to move beyond the unrest, he said. “The question is how do we build a community all going in the same direction,” Headley said, adding that it involves a shared language to talk about the issue and a sharing of experiences that shape people's perspectives.

Partners in the initiative are Greater Fort Wayne, Sweetwater Sound, United Way of Allen County, Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Fort Wayne Police Department, Fort Wayne Fire Department, Parkview Health, the Black Chamber of Commerce, Greater Fort Wayne Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the NewAllen Alliance.

The initiative is being supported through donations, including one from an anonymous donor who will match up to $250,000 raised.

Those in the process of committing funding include Ruoff Mortgage, JP Morgan Chase, Sweetwater Sound, Youth for Christ, American Electric Power, Waterfield Mortgage, Summit City Chevrolet, Vera Bradley, Promus Equity Partners, Foellinger Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne.

More information about the programming will be provided later and on the website, organizers said.

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