In the era of internet trolls leaving mean-spirited comments online, the concept of sitting down at a table with your neighbors to look them in the eye and discuss matters of race and equity might seem like a bygone notion.
But that's what the village of Oak Park is doing with its longtime Dinner & Dialogue program, which brings together residents in volunteers' homes and encourages them to discuss the topic that is still difficult to broach for many.
Those in-real-life connections are having an impact in Oak Park, according to Karin Grimes, of the Oak Park Community Relations Commission (CRC), which organizes dinners.
Grimes said in a telephone interview that the program – the CRC holds about eight to 10 of the dinners every year –is modeled after the Jane Addams Hull House Association Center for Civil Society's Dinners Project.
Historically, the dinners have involved about a dozen people, but Grimes said the CRC is working to expand the dialogue sessions to bring in more people.
Their upcoming event is being held at Dominican University and is at capacity at 64 people, Grimes said.
Future dinners with the larger format will be held at Unity Temple on Friday, April 12 and the Oak Park River Forest Museum on Thursday, May 9. All dates for future events are on the village's website or by emailing the Community Relations Commission at email@example.com.
Grimes told Wednesday Journal that the CRC has set dates through the end of the year for dinners that will be held in Oak Parkers' homes.
"We are going to plan dinners every other month and alternate them between Friday evenings and Sunday evenings," Grimes said in an email. The dates for those events are Sunday, May 19; Friday, July 19; Sunday, Sept. 15; and Friday, Nov. 15.
CRC members are also working to step up their social media presence to help grow the program, Grimes said.
"People say they've never heard of it before, so we're trying to get [information about the dinners] out there more," she said.
Grimes described the dinners as facilitated conversations that generally begin with attendees talking about why they moved to Oak Park.
More information about the dinners is available at www.oak-park.us/our-community/community-relations/dinner-dialogue.
Answer Book 2018
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