Back in 2001, a diverse group of people came together to launch a program called the Madison Study Circles on Race. Through sharing that occurred in dialogues among circles of 8-10 people, new and deeper understandings about racial and cultural differences were discovered, as well as areas in which participants could find common ground and develop plans for joint action.
Twenty years later, a mini-reunion will take place at this Friday’s Dane Dances on the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, starting at 5:30 p.m. The Aug. 20 Dane Dances will feature DJ Chamo, V05 and Antone’s Tribute to Barry White.
Community members interested in meeting up with the members of the Study Circles will find the group gathering at a table marked “Study Circles” where they can come together in fellowship. There will also be a place where they can record written and audio memories of the program.
“The experience proved to be life-changing for many of the people who were involved,” says John Quinlan, a former Study Circles co-chair, in a statement. Quinlan cited a 2004 Madison Common Council meeting where dozens of program participants came forward to offer their testimonials as just one measure of the success of the program.
Dane Dances and Study Circles are two of several programs proposed and implemented by a Task Force on Racial Justice in the late 1990s, including popular programs like Dane Dinners, and a Race and Media forum.
“Due to logistical and political challenges, after three years the program ended, despite the commitment and enthusiasm of those who were involved,” Quinlan said. “This is a time of extreme community need to find solutions around issues of racial and cultural diversity. And so it makes great sense for many of us who saw the promise of Study Circles come together again to reflect on how similar programs might also make a difference again.”