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Race Relations Initiative

In 2006, a small group of PD members, led by Gwen Jackson, Mary Dowell and Pat Gorence, came together to explore how the organization could take a leadership role in making a sustainable difference in our community on the issue of racism. These conversations led to the founding of the Professional Dimensions Race Relations Initiative in 2007.

The mission of the initiative is to work, in our space and time, to identify what the women of PD could do to bring about action and positive change around the issue of racism in our community.  Drawing inspiration from the initiative’s mantra - Reflection, Connection, Action - committee members set out to create spaces for brave conversations to occur.

Dinnertime Dialogues, the inaugural programming created by the initiative, was inspired by this early statement from co-founder Gwen Jackson, “Until we start meeting in each other's living rooms, we will never understand each other.” These meetings provided an opportunity for PD members and their guests to engage in facilitated table conversations on the topics of race and racism. 

To further the reach of the Initiative, Professional Dimensions hosted the Connections Summit on November 6th, 2010. Co-chaired by Dr. Kathie Kueht and Margaret Henningsen, this gathering brought together over 125 women of different backgrounds, races and ages to explore what we hold in common, what keeps us apart and how we can work together as women to build a stronger, better community for all of us. Dr. Shakti Butler, a dynamic speaker and an internationally known author on racism, served as the facilitator of this day-long event.

Conversation Circles are the mainstay of the Race Relations Initiative. These circles bring together a small, diverse group of women to meet for five consecutive weeks in a person's home for open, honest discussion on racism assisted by two facilitators. Paula Penebaker and Dr. Kueht developed the program and its curriculum with the assistance of Martha Barry and the YWCA. Ten years later, we are proud to share that over 150 women have participated in 19 Conversation Circles.

In recognition of this work, Professional Dimensions was the recipient of the 2011 Diversity and Inclusion Award from the YMCA of Greater Milwaukee.

The programming Professional Dimensions Race Relations Initiative provides is an integral part of membership in the organization and a driving force for change in our community.  In the fall of 2017, we celebrated 10 years of the initiative. Check out the testimonials below from women who helped found the initiative or participated on Conversation Circles.

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