COLUMBUS – In light of the intense racial climate generated by police shootings around the country, including the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland a year ago, a community gathering tonight will focus on ways to bridge the divide.

The event in Akron is part of the Creating Social Change study series, which Jennifer Toles, lead organizer with the Akron Organizing Collaborative, says is opening a dialogue about how racial dynamics and systems of oppression can hinder social change.

Toles maintains that things are becoming too personalized, and in racially charged times, the fight shouldn’t be against one another.

“People feel like there are individual attacks going on, that one community doesn’t like another community, that there is an issue with police in general and it is more often an issue with the system itself than it is with any individual,” she states.

Toles says educators, students and residents of all ages, races, religions and economic backgrounds have come together to discuss how different groups can create a mutual understanding of one another.

Tonight’s event starts at 6 at The Way of Mind and Body community center in Akron.

The study series is examining the success and flaws of movements such as civil rights, labor and women’s suffrage.

Toles says the goal is to apply that knowledge to struggles of today. For example, she explains that misunderstanding about the message of the advocacy group Black Lives Matter is creating a wedge.

“Is it saying that only black lives matter?” she asks. “And so a common retort is, ‘Well, no, all lives matter.’

“This bringing together of folks has been a way to try to have that conversation in a non-hostile environment so folks can understand where everyone is coming from.”

The study series is sponsored by the Akron Organizing Collaborative, the American Friends Service Committee and the Way of Mind and Body. It runs monthly through February.

A study series is opening a dialogue about how racial dynamics can hinder social change. study series is opening a dialogue about how racial dynamics can hinder social change.

By Mary Kuhlman

Ohio News Connection