Youth Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity in Metropolitan Detroit
Program Summary

Youth Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity in Metropolitan Detroit increases diversity dialogues, challenge racial and ethnic discrimination, and creates community change. The program involves young people – of African, Asian, White European, Middle Eastern, and Latin American descent – in small group dialogues, metropolitan tours, and residential retreats. More than 800 young people have benefited from the dialogues, in addition to residential retreats, community action projects, and public policy leadership.

Background

Metropolitan Detroit is among America’s most segregated areas. As some suburbs increase in Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American populations, others are almost exclusively white European, and Detroit is largely segregated in its African American population.

 

Young people are open to discussion of race and ethnicity, but live in segregation, with few opportunities to communicate with people who are different from themselves. They understand the limitations of segregation, appreciate diversity, and want to interact across boundaries – again with few opportunities to do so. New initiatives are needed for intergroup dialogue, without which racial tension will rise and diverse democracy decline.

Program Objectives
  • Increase youth dialogues on race and ethnicity
  • Enable young people to build relationships with others who are different from them
  • Plan action projects that challenge discrimination and create change
  • Build school and community capacity for work of this type
  • Promote youth participation in public policy
  • Involve supportive adults in working with young people
  • Engage diverse youth in a social justice precollege program
Program Components
  • Summer Intergroup Dialogues:  Youth participate in weekly dialogues with teams from other racial and ethnic backgrounds to address issues of social identity, racism, and segregation. Trained University of Michigan students facilitate the dialogues. Dialogue teams also participate in a metropolitan area tour, social activities, and community service projects.
  • Campus Retreat:  Young people come to the University of Michigan for a residential retreat where they develop leadership skills, and plan community action projects.
  • Community Action Projects:  Young people create action projects to challenge segregation and discrimination in their home communities. Examples of projects include school exchanges, community marches, diversity forums, and policy salons where they encourage other youth and adults to discuss discrimination and segregation in their community.
  • Social Justice Fellows:  Youth leaders selected from the dialogues meet throughout the year to discuss policy issues. They research issues, hold policy dialogues, and present their findings to state and national officials. For example, they have produced a statewide resolution on civil rights and social justice education, in collaboration with state agencies.
  • Youth Civil Rights Academy:  As an outgrowth of the program, the academy was established to prepare a new generation of civil rights change agents. The academy includes online courses, school outreach, and statewide summits.
  • Mosaic Youth Theatre ‘Speak for Yourself’:  The Mosaic Youth Theatre performs this piece during the summer program – and are available for school and community performances – which is based on dialogue participants’ stories of growing up in segregated area. A ‘Speak for Yourself’ study guide was also developed and available for review.
  • Evaluation:  An integral part to the program includes findings that show that the program deeply affects student’s (1) understanding of their own racial and ethnic identities (2) knowledge about others who are different from themselves and (3) willingness to act against racism and segregation in their communities.
Partners
  • Allen Park High School
  • Alternatives for Girls (AFG)
  • Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
  • Asian Pacific American Club (APAC)
  • Association of Chinese Americans
  • B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO)
  • Canton High School
  • Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan
  • Congress of Communities (CoC)
  • Dearborn Schools
  • Detroit Asian Youth (DAY) Project
  • Detroit Youth Foundation
  • Farmington Hills Mayor’s Youth Council
  • Farmington Schools
  • Ferndale High School
  • Grosse Pointe Public High Schools
  • Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development
  • Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit
  • Neutral Zone
  • Novi High School
  • Peoples’ Community Services
  • Rosedale Park Baptist Church
  • Renaissance High School
  • Sacred Heart Chaldean Church
  • Southfield Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council
  • St. Clair High School
  • United Family and Community Organization
  • University Liggett School
  • University Prep Science & Math High School
  • West Bloomfield High School

Publications

Program Elements
SYD 2014 welcome
Adults as Allies

Parents are oriented to the purpose and process, and invited to a special graduation ceremony, at which youth receive a University of Michigan Certificate of Completion. Community partners select young people to represent their schools or communities.

Teachers and Administrators

Educators attend meetings which are responsive to their roles — such as curricular materials, lesson plans, experiential experiences — and which enable them to meet colleagues who share their concerns.

SYD 2016 Calendar
Program Outreach

Program staff reach out to schools and communities to familiarize them with the program, and build long-term relationships which build capacity for work of this type.

Program Calendar

The program began as a summer program, and now offers additional opportunities on a year-round basis, for participants that wish to continue.

SYD 2015 Group Activity
Bridge-Building Activities

Young people work together across the boundaries that separate them. They learn skills in program planning, public speaking, and other leadership activities. When youth from segregated areas work together in these ways, it creates a new unit of solution.

Intragroup and Intergroup Dialogues

Youth participate in intragroup dialogues which enable them to meet with others who share their social identities, and intergroup dialogues in pairs where they meet with others who are different from themselves.  All dialogues are facilitated by trained university facilitators.

SYD 2013 Mural Painting
Community Action Projects

Young people create action projects to challenge segregation and discrimination in a segregated metropolitan area. Examples of projects include school exchanges, community marches, diversity forums, and policy salons where they encourage other youth and adults to challenge segregation in their home communities. Models of these projects have included youth publishing a book project My Dreams Are Not a Secret: Teenagers in Metropolitan Detroit Speak Out, in which they wrote about growing up in segregated worlds and living on the borders of change.

Youth Public Policy Forums

Youth leaders selected from the dialogues meet throughout the year to discuss policy issues. They research issues, hold policy dialogues, and present their findings to state and national officials. They worked with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights Commission to produce this resolution for strengthening social justice education statewide.

SYD 2016 roger preso
Residential Retreat

Youth spend one week living in a residence hall where they live, eat, and work together on projects. For some of them, this is the first time they have ever lived under the same roof with people who are different in race and ethnicity.

Pre-College Program

Because higher education is part of a more socially-just society, the program includes precollege experiences, such as campus tours, meetings with admissions and financial aid officers, and strategies for writing applications and finding financial aid.

SYD collage
Program Organizers

Youth Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity in Metropolitan Detroit is a program of the Michigan Youth and Community Program in the School of Social Work, in partnership with the Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR), whose dialogue and social justice curriculum has been adapted for this youth and community purpose.

For more information

Young people and adult allies who are interested in learning more about the program should contact Barry Checkoway at barrych@umich.edu.

 

University of Michigan students interested in becoming intergroup facilitators should contact Roger Fisher at rogerf@umich.edu.