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'Conscious Conversations' Tackle Racial Inequity in NW Indiana


Thursday, October 20, 2022   

What it's like to walk a mile in another person's shoes isn't always easy to imagine, but one nonprofit group in Indiana is doing what it can to help broaden people's horizons in Lake County.

The Legacy Foundation has been engaging the community with an old-fashioned form of shared experience: the book talk. Over the course of 2021, the "Conscious Conversations" program brought monthly public book discussions to northwest Indiana. Each month, a different book was selected.

Maranda Engquist, marketing and communications manager for the Legacy Foundation, said the goal is to raise awareness about inequity in the community.

"All of the books focused on Black America, and really helped individuals identify some racial injustices within our own communities," Engquist explained. "The whole goal was really to utilize these stories as a guide to work towards a more equitable and inclusive Lake County, Indiana."

Engquist noted if you would like to start your own discussion group, resources are available, including free copies of selected books. The Conscious Conversations discussion guides and related questions are on the Legacy Foundation's website.

While some might see book clubs as relics of the past, Engquist pointed out the Conscious Conversations program proved to be so popular, other groups sprung up around the selections to host their own talks.

"We also had partner sites," Engquist emphasized. "We had professors at local universities, we had some of our local libraries, we had individuals that were very interested in this, and they would host their own conversations, their own monthly book club. So, in total we had about 100 conversations throughout the entire year."

In addition to books, some months included short films or documentaries for discussion. As the community came together for the discussions, Engquist added many came to learn from the works, while others shared their own experiences with lack of inclusion.

"So, it was very interesting to see and hear about one book from both perspectives," Engquist observed. "Of people coming in for the education piece, but then also others then wanting to just utilize the space to talk about what they experience."

Support for this reporting was provided by The Legacy Foundation.

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