MANSFIELD -- Just two virtual meetings into what is expected to be a five-year process, leaders of the Richland County Task Force on Racism have seen impact from their 21-member steering committee.
Amy Hiner and Renda Cline, task force co-chairs, both said Monday the diverse group has engaged in deep conversations that are making a difference in their own organizations.
"We can already see people putting on their 'equity lens' more often. It's in their thought process more often. When they meet with their own boards or organizations, it's now in their thought process. They are looking at things a little differently," Hiner said.
Cline said, "It's going very well. We are getting everyone on the same page and preparing for greater work ahead while taking the time to address any needed day-to-day things."
The steering committee was announced a month ago, a group Cline and Hiner said is committed to battling issues surrounding systemic racism in the county.
The steering committee will help select and guide the work of seven working groups seeking racial equity in the areas of business, criminal justice, education, health care, housing, employment and mental health.
Those working groups are expected to begin meeting in January.
In selecting the steering committee, Cline and Hiner said said it would be a diverse and strong group. They said Monday that goal has been met.
"Everyone is very competent," Cline said. "It doesn't take Amy or myself to address things. As individuals, they are able to do that. That's why this group will come together as a cohesive group to form a united force."
Hiner said the steering committee is working out as planned.
"We have men, women, people of color ... not just black, we have Asian, bi-racial. As we are meeting, people are having different conversations. It is just a good learning experience.
"People who would not necessarily interact with one another are doing so now and it's leading to some deep, interesting conversations," Hiner said. "I feel like the dynamic has been really powerful."
Cline and Hiner said they also wanted to stress all residents are invited to participate in the work groups associated with the effort.
"We are still in the developing stages. The work of gathering data and developing solutions hasn't actually started," Cline said. "We don't want anyone to feel excluded or left out. We would love for people to participate. This is a community effort.
"When people reach out to us (via email), please make sure we have your current contact information so that we can respond," Cline said. "We know there are a lot of people out with histories and talents who can contribute."
Hiner said, "This will be an ongoing process. We have so much background knowledge to build up ... so much education. We want people who are passionate about making things better in our community."
Dr. Phil Mazzocco, a psychology professor at OSU-Mansfield who has done extensive work in racial disparities, is the project's evaluator. Cline and Hiner said he has already helped the group begin to develop specific, measurable goals.
The task force leaders have said the task force looked at other cities that have done this kind of work. Mansfield City Council in August rejected by a 5-4 vote a resolution that would have declared racism as a public health crisis, though Richland Public Health has agreed to participate.