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Upcoming forums to focus on discrimination

The city’s Human Relations Board is hosting two community forums on discrimination later this year.

The first forum will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Springfield High School Learning Cafe, 701 N. Home Rd. The second forum will be held at 1:30 to 3 p.m. on March 5 at United Senior Services, 101 S. Fountain Ave.

“We’ve been doing some thinking that we want to look a little bit more into what we’re supposed to be doing, what we’ve been asked to do by the city,” said board president Eric Smith.

The board will release its findings from civil rights surveys it conducted at CultureFest last September and other events last year.

“We want to present that to the community so it can hear what we’re learning and discover what possibilities there are here in Springfield,” Smith said.

Smith said the board had lots of conversations at those events and collected approximately 200 surveys.

“It’s enough data for us to build off of,” Smith said.

The meetings will be the same, but the board is holding two meetings to hopefully bring more people to the forums, Smith said.

“We want to get their feedback on what they’ve observed in Springfield, any possible discrimination there might be and what the good things are that we can build off of,” Smith said.

Smith said the meetings are the first step in a process of possibly making changes for the human relations board. They’ll likely reevaluate their next step after the forums this winter.

Shannon Meadows, the city’s community development director, called the forums “a wonderful thing.”

“(The board) is delving into what the city commission as a whole has tasked them to do, conducting surveys and doing research that really gets to the heart of perception in the community,” Meadows said. “It’s exactly what the board is tasked to do and they’re really focused on carrying that out.”

The human relations board has seven members: Smith, Samina Ahmen, Philana Crite, Cynthia Harshaw, Amy Knapp, Winkie Mitchell and Jackie Schafer. The board’s liaison is Mayor Warren Copeland.

The board’s vision is “to support the City of Springfield as a community where ALL people are given EVERY opportunity to experience dignity, tolerance, value, purpose and belonging, regardless of race, color, national origin, ancestry, age, military status, gender, religion, disability status, sexual orientation and other expressions of human diversity,” according to material released at last week’s 24th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration luncheon.

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