A Call to Community Dialogue Guide
Publication date – 1995-1996
Developed by – Hope in the Cities, a program of Initiatives of Change

Aims, objectives, and intended audience

A Call to Community invites participants to overcome racial divisions and embrace the diversity of American communities. The curriculum recognizes the lingering mistrust, fear, and racial resentment that exists in America and seeks to acknowledge and heal racial ills. A Call to Community was first developed to guide community dialogue and promote racial healing between African American and white communities in Richmond, Virginia. It has since been used to promote dialogue among different communities in cities around the United States and abroad.

Broad structure and key educational methods

A Call to Community contains six sessions that last two hours each. Each session is comprised of a series of questions and is led by a facilitator. Each session concludes with a homework assignment that asks participants to reflect on a paragraph or short reading in preparation for the subsequent session. Although A Call to Community is dialogue driven, the first session does allow for an optional video, Healing the Heart of America: A Unity Walk.

Key topics or themes by module

1. Beginning the Conversation: Why are we here?

This session is primarily devoted to the creation of a safe space for dialogue. Participants create ground rules for dialogue sessions that will be used throughout the sessions to guide the group’s interactions. Participants share their hopes and expectations for the dialogues. An optional video, Healing the Heart of America: A Unity Walk may be shown.

2. Our Experience of Race & Community: Who are we?

This session guides participants in contrasting the racial and ethnic demographics of the neighborhoods that their grandparents and parents lived in with the participants’ own neighborhoods. In a similarly contrasting fashion, questions also seek to engage how participants’ grandparents’ and parents’ views regarding people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds have influenced their own attitudes. The session then explores current dynamics of race and community by asking folks to share both positive and negative experiences they have had with people from different racial and/or ethnic groups.

3. Our Experiences and History: Can we come together?

The questions in this session delve into issues of unity, diversity, and division. They prompt discussion related to personal experiences of benefitting or suffering from Affirmative Action, discrimination, and privilege. The questions also consider perceptions of America’s unity, focusing on diverse peoples and the role of redressing past injustices.

4. Forgiveness and Atonement: How do we forgive? Repent?

Delving into the racial reconciliation progress, this session centers on forgiveness and repentance. Participants are asked to share their experiences and emotions related to the extension and acceptance of forgiveness and repentance. Questions also explore the dynamics behind who typically steps forward to start the reconciliation process.

5. Building Hope for the Future: What should our city look like?

This session asks participants to analyze the arrangement of structures in their area that strengthen or impede racial divisions while considering what role, if any, race played/plays in participants’ choices regarding neighborhood, schools, social activities, etc. In light of this information, the session then transitions into visioning questions designed to help participants imagine what their area would look like if genuine racial reconciliation was achieved. The conversation closes by inviting folks to brainstorm specific actions that would lead toward that vision while recognizing both the mechanism and impediments currently in place.

6. Looking Within: Who are we now?

This final session continues the action theme that was established at the conclusion of the prior session. The materials prompt participants to make personal commitments to specific actions that further racial reconciliation. The closing questions invite reflection by asking participants to share about their feelings and growth throughout these sessions, notably action and attitude changes.

Curriculum acquisition information

Hope in the Cities
2201 West Broad Street, Suite 200
Richmond, VA 23220