Real Communities Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary
Ten years ago, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities’ (GCDD) Real Communities Partnerships began with a goal to partner with local groups that worked to support communities who welcomed all to the table and recognized and utilized everyone’s gifts and skills.
Real Communities was focused to partner with local groups working to build more than just communities. “It was an intentional approach to improving communities by involving people with and without disabilities at the local, grassroots level to work together toward common goals to improve their community using person-centered supports, community-centered connections and persistent and reflective learning,” said Eric Jacobson, executive director of GCDD.
Projects such as the Mixed Greens Community Builders at the Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah, GA; or the Open Studio for All in Moultrie, GA; or the Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA, have earned this project national acclaim by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Ten years later, the impact of this effort has expanded statewide and has developed into an additional initiative, Welcoming Community Dialogue (WCD) groups – gatherings of community members representing many ethnicities, abilities and skills, who discuss and work towards a community that offers dignity and justice for all.
With five Georgia WCDs already up and running in Athens, Augusta, Comer, Fort Gaines and LaGrange, the initiative recently awarded grants to an additional four communities to expand this impact (see sidebar below).
When looking back over the 10 years of Real Community Partnerships, Project Organizing Director Sumaya Karimi celebrates the sustainability of the program, the investment by GCDD and how the initiative has scaled through the increase in the number of groups and communities participating throughout the state of Georgia.
Karimi is the founder and director of Global Ubuntu of Lilburn, GA, which provides oversight for this initiative by providing administrative and financial support, technical assistance, training and coaching.
Another of the initiative’s successes was last fall’s Welcoming Community Dialogue Summit held in Clarkston, GA, with 90 attendees. Karimi says Global Ubuntu is planning its next Welcoming Community Dialogue Summit on September 26, 2020 in Atlanta, GA, and expects a powerhouse of ideas and plans to result from the day.
“WCD groups give me a sense of hope and purpose in life knowing there are people who care about everyone and believe in the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. I am hoping that together we create a movement for an equitable and just society. I understand it’s a long-term dream and commitment and we have no choice but to be committed if we want our kids and community to thrive in a healthy and peaceful environment,” explains Karimi.
New Welcoming Communities
- Filling the GAPS, LLC in Augusta, GA, plans to host two annual dialogues. Each dialogue will include a component that focuses on the need for mental health awareness in the African American community. The dialogue approach will be from the viewpoint of mental wellness as opposed to mental illness.
- Abilities Discovered, Inc. in Warner Robins, GA, notes that being willing to share time and space with people in order to find commonalities and to share ideas about how to make their neighborhood a more welcoming place for all people is vital. The community issues include transportation, lack of affordable housing, homelessness, as well as how religious groups relate to people with disabilities, those with socio-economic differences and people with varying lifestyles.
- Diversified Enterprises in Tifton, GA, will open dialogue with community leaders and individuals with affordable housing concerns to increase awareness, develop relationships and facilitate progress toward solutions in providing spaces for all community members to live and grow together. This group imagines the City of Tifton, as well as Tift County, where people from all walks and wheels of life ask, “How can we create affordable and accessible housing?”
- Art, Music, Purpose (AMP) located in Rome, GA, will bring individuals together to discuss social issues and get to know each other on a more authentic level than in traditional meetings. The plan is as people get to know each other through conversations in a safe, open and creative space, mutual understanding and empathetic connections will increase, trust will grow and individuals will realize that they have much more in common than what divides them.