County News

County holds hard conversations to strengthen the community

Panelists discuss the triumphs and challenges of the lunch counter sit-ins during the 2020 “Created Equal” event in Leon County, Fla.

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  • County News Article

    County holds hard conversations to strengthen the community

    Problem:

    Community members have a hard time discussing race, asking questions and interacting in discussions about uncomfortable topics.

    Soltuion:

     Create an annual forum for discussing racial equity and more.

    In western Florida, Leon County leads the charge against racial inequality through a powerful tool: Communication. 

    Leon County holds an event called “Created Equal” once a year, when residents gather to hear from experts on race and harrowing tales from people who lived through tumultuous times.

    “For years, the county’s ‘Created Equal’ program has asked necessary, tough questions about racial inequity in our community and throughout the nation,” said Bill Proctor, chairman of the Leon County Board of Commissioners. “Difficult but civil conversations like these bring us together and move us forward. This is more important than ever now, as we live in a country unwilling to talk and therefore unable to change.”

    Beginning in 2015 with a partnership with the nonprofit “The Village Square,” the Created Equal program has tackled racial issues that are “tough to talk about” but are important to address. The event includes a variety of performances, plays, singers, and panelists. In the past, Created Equal has discussed topics like the lunch counter sit-ins, Florida Emancipation Day and the loss of lives to violence.

    The most recent in-person event was attended by around 600 residents while the virtual event reached more than 100,000. At previous events, attendees gathered in small groups for a performance or panel followed by a conversation about what transpired.

    The Created Equal program holds events in non-traditional settings, preferring to shift from a boardroom-style meeting to an area that fosters more diverse discussion. To that end, the county has hosted events in a nightclub, university hall, online and more.

    Volunteer Services Manager Royle King said the program is “geared toward creating a better, safe, fun and more vibrant solution-filled county.” 

    King said these conversations are important to help grow the community. To that end, the county partnered with a small group of planners working with the Village Square to bring together experts as well as residents who have lived through the events Created Equal wants to highlight.

    After the panel concludes, participants are asked to engage with each other in a discussion with questions like “How important is cross-racial cooperation today?” and “Do you think it is better to assume the best about those you disagree with…does the spirit of good will increase one’s chances of being taken advantage of?”

    After the program, grants have been awarded to participants through The Five-Foot Challenge, to complete projects in a similar style to what the Created Equal event focused on. In 2020, attendees competed for a $500 startup grant with ideas about bridging the racial divide in their communities.

    The Village Square is a national nonprofit educational organization working to create conversations and events like “Created Equal” across the country. The nonprofit started in the county seat of Leon County. The organization is devoted to recreating traditional American town hall discussions, where “the constant clashing of opinion” reduces extremism.

    The county is no stranger to the struggle for racial equity. Leon County celebrated the lunch counter sit-ins as well as the jail-ins and bus boycotts, calling attention to the inequalities of segregation.

    The county has also hosted several prominent civil rights leaders who helped inspire other communities to tackle the barriers of racial inequality. The Created Equal program highlights the accomplishments, the difficulties and the barriers torn down by past leaders while seeing where the current situation can be improved.

    Leon County looks forward to hosting another Created Equal event called “A Conversation about the Right to Vote,” which will be the seventh event held in the county.

    “Since 2015, the county has been engaging hundreds of citizens in frank conversations about race and racial equity,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “Through our partnership with The Village Square, each year we innovate the program format, from symphonies to local stories to the 60th anniversary of Tallahassee’s most famous civil rights sit-in. We are eager to host our seventh Created Equal in 2022 with a focus on voting access and equity.”

     

    The Leon County Created Equal program is the recipient of a Best in Category 2021 NACo Achievement Award in the Culture category.

    Leon County, Fla. created an annual forum for discussing racial equity.
    2022-01-25
    County News Article
    2022-01-25
Leon County, Fla. created an annual forum for discussing racial equity.

Problem:

Community members have a hard time discussing race, asking questions and interacting in discussions about uncomfortable topics.

Soltuion:

 Create an annual forum for discussing racial equity and more.

In western Florida, Leon County leads the charge against racial inequality through a powerful tool: Communication. 

Leon County holds an event called “Created Equal” once a year, when residents gather to hear from experts on race and harrowing tales from people who lived through tumultuous times.

“For years, the county’s ‘Created Equal’ program has asked necessary, tough questions about racial inequity in our community and throughout the nation,” said Bill Proctor, chairman of the Leon County Board of Commissioners. “Difficult but civil conversations like these bring us together and move us forward. This is more important than ever now, as we live in a country unwilling to talk and therefore unable to change.”

Beginning in 2015 with a partnership with the nonprofit “The Village Square,” the Created Equal program has tackled racial issues that are “tough to talk about” but are important to address. The event includes a variety of performances, plays, singers, and panelists. In the past, Created Equal has discussed topics like the lunch counter sit-ins, Florida Emancipation Day and the loss of lives to violence.

The most recent in-person event was attended by around 600 residents while the virtual event reached more than 100,000. At previous events, attendees gathered in small groups for a performance or panel followed by a conversation about what transpired.

The Created Equal program holds events in non-traditional settings, preferring to shift from a boardroom-style meeting to an area that fosters more diverse discussion. To that end, the county has hosted events in a nightclub, university hall, online and more.

Volunteer Services Manager Royle King said the program is “geared toward creating a better, safe, fun and more vibrant solution-filled county.” 

King said these conversations are important to help grow the community. To that end, the county partnered with a small group of planners working with the Village Square to bring together experts as well as residents who have lived through the events Created Equal wants to highlight.

After the panel concludes, participants are asked to engage with each other in a discussion with questions like “How important is cross-racial cooperation today?” and “Do you think it is better to assume the best about those you disagree with…does the spirit of good will increase one’s chances of being taken advantage of?”

After the program, grants have been awarded to participants through The Five-Foot Challenge, to complete projects in a similar style to what the Created Equal event focused on. In 2020, attendees competed for a $500 startup grant with ideas about bridging the racial divide in their communities.

The Village Square is a national nonprofit educational organization working to create conversations and events like “Created Equal” across the country. The nonprofit started in the county seat of Leon County. The organization is devoted to recreating traditional American town hall discussions, where “the constant clashing of opinion” reduces extremism.

The county is no stranger to the struggle for racial equity. Leon County celebrated the lunch counter sit-ins as well as the jail-ins and bus boycotts, calling attention to the inequalities of segregation.

The county has also hosted several prominent civil rights leaders who helped inspire other communities to tackle the barriers of racial inequality. The Created Equal program highlights the accomplishments, the difficulties and the barriers torn down by past leaders while seeing where the current situation can be improved.

Leon County looks forward to hosting another Created Equal event called “A Conversation about the Right to Vote,” which will be the seventh event held in the county.

“Since 2015, the county has been engaging hundreds of citizens in frank conversations about race and racial equity,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “Through our partnership with The Village Square, each year we innovate the program format, from symphonies to local stories to the 60th anniversary of Tallahassee’s most famous civil rights sit-in. We are eager to host our seventh Created Equal in 2022 with a focus on voting access and equity.”

 

The Leon County Created Equal program is the recipient of a Best in Category 2021 NACo Achievement Award in the Culture category.

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