Granted!

Team Local scores funds to face racial bias in groundbreaking new series.  

Big news for our little newspaper: a $3,000 grant from the Independence Public Media Foundation! In 2020, our writers, editors and Board members will take part in a succession of candid articles confronting our racial blind spots, privileges and misconceptions through Unconscious Bias training. We’re aiming to better serve our multi-cultural audience, and also model the process for everyone who strives to be an ally across racial lines.

The grant comes through IPM Board member Anuj Gupta, general manager of Reading Terminal Market, whose popular dinner series “Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers” uses food to forge bonds beyond age, race and class divides. “We are in desperate need of shared experiences that point to our commonalities, “ he wrote on Medium in 2017, “That is the only way we can talk with one another and find communal solutions.”

In 2019, “Breaking Bread/Barriers” won a Knight Foundation grant to expand the program to four Philly parks, including Germantown’s Vernon Park in October. This time, moderators from Penn’s Catalyst Conversations team helped train community volunteers in meeting facilitation and conflict resolution so that they could host their own Breaking Bread dinners and, ideally, add their own spin to this delicious new model for cultural celebration and healthy communication.

Anuj addressed the crowd with a message of hope and gratitude:

I want to thank the Friends of Vernon Park and anyone who is here tonight who is not formally a member of the Friends group. This is really inspiring to me. The way you all have embraced this as a community – give yourselves a round of applause.

You came out for the first dinner. Then we asked you to come out for training to be community dialog facilitators, and you came out for that. And now on a busy Monday night when you probably have five other things pulling you in different directions, but you came out once again. So for us when we put a project like this together, we hope people will get something out of it. We want people to get something out of it. But you never really know.

So when a community embraces it like you have, it makes us feel really good. And more important like that… We are living in this incredible time where it’s easy to believe that we just can’t sit down and talk anymore. We can’t have productive conversations, whether it’s non-controversial issues or difficult ones. And here in Germantown, we’re showing people that’s simply not the case.

People do want to talk. They want to have productive conversations. They just need a forum to do so. Thank you for being wiling to join us again tonight, and I hope you get something out of this evening that’s to the benefit of this beautiful park.

A neighborhood newspaper is another tool to get people talking. Unlike the internet and social media, the printed page operates without any filters or algorithms. Readers may encounter articles that would otherwise never appear in their timelines.

This opportunity to open hearts and minds across persistent boundaries appeals to Anuj, and also dovetails with IPM’s mission to empower communities through media. His generous grant through IPM and our partner, CultureWorks, will help the Local spark important conversations in Germantown, East Falls and NW Philly.

In 2020, we’ll begin working with Unconscious Bias professionals on training for the Local paper’s editors, contributors and advisers, which we’ll document in a series of candid articles (and video) so readers can see for themselves the work that needs to be done. We hope you’ll join us as we seek to identify our blind spots, and learn to speak and write more effectively for our multi-cultural audience.

Who is the Independence Public Media Foundation?

In 2017, WYBE Channel 35 in Philadelphia sold their broadcast license in a $131.5 million deal and established IPM to strengthen and connect diverse voices across the region. The first round of grants – totally $5.3 million – was announced July 2019. In December, IPM provided $4.3 million more for partners and projects to help establish a local “hotbed for creative media makers.” Big thanks to Anuj and IPM for supporting the Local paper!

Read more about Unconscious Bias here. 

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