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Talking about racial concerns to make a difference in communities

CBS 21

When it comes to race relations, what words and actions are really considered offensive?

That is what the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg is hoping to find out with a frank discussion about racism, that organizers hope will make a difference.

Tara Leo Auchey, who is facilitating the "Let's Talk" event said that can be difficult.

"When we're preparing for a Let's Talk session like this, what we really sit down and talk about are the best approaches to make people feel comfortable," Leo-Auchey said.

That can be a tall order when it comes to discussion about racism, but that's what the Let's Talk series is focusing on over the next six weeks at the YWCA.

The dialogue between diverse groups of community members kicked off this week as part of the YWCA's commitment to eliminating racism.

YWCA of Greater Harrisburg CEO Mary Quinn said it's is just part of their mission.

The organization has also changed the route of its annual "Race Against Racism" to highlight the contributions of women and minorities in the community.

In fact, the Let's Talk discussion is held within view of a display showcasing the contributions.

"By changing our route to be more historically significant, highlighting the city and black history, we were really excited to do that. And we also went through all of our archives because the YWCA is over 100-years-old and so we have a rich history within the city itself," Quinn said.

The past isn't the only focus of the project, Quinn says. Current events are also leading the discussion, specifically the presidential campaigns and some of the comments coming from the candidates that aren't speaking with such tolerant or inclusive dialogue.

"A little frightening in some regards, too. I would think that where we are now, okay, on our great year 2016, that we'd moved a little further in regard to perspective, interaction and respect and tolerance for other people. But, I see that doesn't seem to be the case," Pat Gadsden said.

The Let's Talk program is facilitated in small groups of 10 to 15 diverse participants between two to three hours. Participants were invited to the program, and the hope is to take the information gathered over the next few weeks to build a stronger profile in understanding and combating racism.

"Speaking as a person who's not of color, you never want to say the wrong thing, you want to be an ally, and you want to be a participant in your community and I'm really hopeful for myself and for others, who participate in this program and as we bring more awareness to racism that we're able to have those difficult conversations," Quinn said.

The 12th annual Race Against Racism is set for April 30 in Harrisburg.

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