Talking Circles on Race & Racism

Talking Circles on Race & Racism


The Talking Circles on Race and Racism are frank, facilitated dialogues that give people the opportunity for self-reflection, sharing experiences, and influencing each other’s perspectives and attitudes. MRC brings together 10-16 racially diverse participants over a five week period to discuss their personal experiences with racial identity, race issues and racism.

MRC started the Talking Circles in 2007 to address long-standing community tensions around race, as a way to engage people in open and honest dialogue with each other in a safe space and to begin the process of healing old racial wounds. From February 2007 to May 2014, MRC has held Talking Circles for over 500 participants, and the program continues to grow exponentially to this day. We are currently developing several “Round Two” Talking Circles for people who want to focus the conversation on another level of dealing with healing from racism. We also offer Talking Circles for specific groups like youth and for people of color and have a variety of specific Talking Circles for 2014.

We are always looking for individuals who would like to participate in a Circle. If you’d like to be on the waiting list, please contact Fabina Colon, the Program Educator who coordinates the Talking Circles at MRC.

To get a real sense of what people are getting out of the circles, please take the time to watch these two ten-minute videos where we interviewed past participants and facilitators on their experiences:

Part I:

Part II:

Each Talking Circle group meets for two hours per week for five weekly sessions, sometimes six depending on the level. We provide two facilitators per circle, and we strive to create a safe space for participants to engage fully and honestly by making sure the space is confidential, clean and private. MRC also provides refreshments and snacks. Every circle starts out with the group agreeing on how they will dialogue with each other, such as “speaking your truth,” “using ‘I’ statements,” and “confidentiality.”

Once the agreements are in place, the first session always starts out with the question: How do you identify racially and ethnically? Some of the discussion takes place in the large group, and other times the facilitators have the group break into pairs or triads. As the session progresses, some of the other discussion questions include: How do you know racism when you see it? How do you experience racism? How do you think racism has affected your life? How do you cope with the affects? Do you think you are responsible, in any way, for eliminating racism? What is an ally to you?

MRC worked closely with Laura Branca and Kirby Edmonds from Training for Change Associates to develop the format of the Talking Circles. The program is unique to our area and we have successfully trained thirty-eight facilitators to grow and sustain the program. This program also helps us live up to our mission which is, in part, “to create dialogue around diversity issues.”

Who We Serve

The Talking Circles serve a diverse range of people with different racial identities from urban, suburban and rural environments. Past participants of Talking Circles include: staff and faculty in the Ithaca City School District; Cornell University and Ithaca College college students and staff; local politicians at the city and county level; staff and faculty from Wells College; teachers, staff and board members from New Roots Charter School; City of Ithaca staff, including the Ithaca Police Department; and prison workers, social workers, youth workers and community members of all ages, races and economic backgrounds.

We strive to create a balance of white people and people of color in each circle, as well as taking into consideration gender and economic class in order to ensure that the discussion involves people with many different life experiences. For many of the participants, this program is the first time they spoke candidly on race issues with people of different races. Some groups have taken action, such as a group of Cornell students who compiled a list of campus diversity issues to give to campus administration. Other individuals have formed alliances and are working together on anti-racism projects throughout the community. All past participants are invited to join our discussion list serve. One notable result of the Talking Circles is that the United Against Hate campaign grew out of a discussion on the list serve.

For more information, or to participate in a Talking Circle and/or get on our waiting list, please contact Nicole LaFave, Program Educator at (607) 272-2292 ext 191, or email

10 comments for this page

  • guest says:

    It would be very helpful if the dates — and times! — of upcoming Talking Circles could be posted on this website. Thank you.

  • Joanna Green says:

    Hi friends. I enjoyed watching the Part 1 video, except that it stalled out towards the end – is there a problem with the file? Also, I can’t get Part 2 to play at all. Am i the only one with these problems or do you think there is a glitch? Thanks – I’d really like to watch them both.

  • Coung says:

    I live near chicago in IL recently we had a event called the TABLE OF BROTHERHOOD PROJECT come into town and unfortunately i missed it due to work. I go to the AI campus and have a project which requires us to design a poster, I choose to make one for next year in hopes that it would come back next year and possibly submit it my problem is I cannot find and pictures of the event here and even worse the only site that covered the event on the internet was that of ABC news. Every site I click brings me right back to the small uncolorful as well as no pictures and poorly summurised passage. I went as far as looked at the dusable museum and they are the building that hosted the event and there were no listings that it had even happened. I suspect something is a miss.

  • Michele Hochstetter says:

    Hi there…
    I am wondering when your next the dates of your next “Talking Circles” are. I am a staff member at BJM, not an ICSD employee but contracted by an outside agency. If the times work out I would love to be a participate this Fall.
    Thanks for sending me the dates/times.
    Michele Hochstetter
    Sign Language Intepreter

  • [...] Talking Circles on Race & Racism – Multicultural Resource CenterJul 16, 2010 … The Talking Circles on Race and Racism are frank, facilitated dialogues that give people the opportunity for self-reflection, sharing experiences, … [...]

  • Terry McMaster says:

    So nice to see what your organization is up to. I would like to be on your mailing list. Thanks.

  • Luigi Morelli says:

    Wanting to know dates for the next circles

    Luigi Morelli


    I live in Gastonia, NC. (a purple state at risk for going purple.) Last week our County Museum of Art and History presented a program called “The Legacy of Slavery” (!) It was well attended. Mostly people of color, but a generous sprinkling of pale faces like mine. Now I’m inspired to organize a group to watch The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” series and discuss. Then I’d want to organize Talking Circles on Race and Racism. I’m on a roll.

  • acooper says:

    Hi Karen,
    I must apologize to you for not responding to your post in a timely manner. Our Talking Circles on Race & Racism are facilitated by trained facilitators from our community. We female, male, white and folks of color who lead the dialogue and are paired up white & person of color except for the round 2 specialized Circles. The include the white allies group and one for only people of color. The idea is to build our ally base and empower white folks to work on their racism/privilege and to learn how to support folks of color and take a stand as it’s needed. We do not recommend anyone to begin a Talking Circle with mixed races and ethnicities unless trained to do so. We have a module that was developed by TFC Associates and MRC. Please feel free to call my office 607-272-22992, ext. 135. It’s also important for you to have support in developing the dialogue. If you have funds to pay for travel and our time we can visit with you and others to talk about our model which is unique. My email address is

  • David Johnson says:

    Good morning Fabina. Here is one more opportunity to see me somewhere and everywhere. Please add my name to your list.


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