Stand Against Racism series is Making A Difference

(WLUK) -- A series of events is tackling the sometimes tough topic of racism.

Organizers say these discussions can be the first steps toward improvements.

Racial tensions have been in the news, recently.

Nationally, we've see these images out of Ferguson, Missouri. Closer to our area, in Milwaukee, just last summer, in Sherman Park.

But some in our community are taking steps to try and help.

"Really, our goal is to generate awareness, to provide a place to have safe conversations in a way that we're able to talk about topics that can be scary and can at times seem like they're not safe," said Kay Baranczyk, CEO of the YWCA.

The YWCA is putting on a series of discussions, called "Stand Against Racism."

They're meant to teach neighbors about neighbors, who may not look the same.

"We're all different. Our community is changing. It's changing every day and it's something for us to embrace. But without learning about each other, we won't be able to do that," said Kay Baranczyk.

This month's talk was from the African-American perspective.

The speaker was Mohammed Bey.

Bey is the director of Diversity and Inclusion at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

He grew up on the south side of Chicago, and as a youth, was involved in gangs and drugs.

He shared his experiences with the audience of about one hundred and offered direction and hope for the future.

"I think Northeast Wisconsin is making strides to get there. It is not going to be easy, and it is not meant to be easy," Bey said.

Bey says it can be difficult to accept difference and to accommodate for that difference. But he says, when we do it, we all benefit.

"It may not resonate with you, but you can still learn something from it, if you can get past your own biases and that works on both sides of the fence; that works on someone who's talking about standing up for racism, as well as for someone who doesn't see racism as a problem," said Bey.

He believes talks like this are a good step forward.

And so do the people who attended.

"I think that there's a lot of fear, not just here in Green Bay, but across the country. And the way to break down that fear, is to start talking to each other, seeing each other," said Robyn Davis of Green Bay.

"I just wanted to hear somebody else's perspective of what they're going through, being here in Green Bay. I can relate to a lot of the things that he was saying, so how can I help our next generation more forward?" said Ingrid Parker-Hill of Green Bay.

"We try to be friendly. We try to be nice but we don't know nothing. We don't know anything about what their experience is in this town," said Jim Soletski of Green Bay.

Organizers believe these talks are making a difference because they are starting a much-needed conversation.

"It's not something that's going to happen overnight but it is something that we can't shy away from," said Bey.

"What we can do as community members is to not hide it, to not run away from it and to be open and understanding to one another," said Baranczyk.

It was already happening at this gathering. Neighbors, seeing neighbors, in a better light.

The next program in the "Stand Against Racism" series takes place in April.

A panel of local experts will discuss the topic of Latinos and the challenges they are facing.

They're also planning an upcoming talk focusing on Native Americans.

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