The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, February 23, 2021 1:00 am

150 groups join effort to improve inclusion

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

As plans for a citywide effort to address race, equity and inclusion began to take shape last year, Iric Headley thought about the participation he wanted to see.

He hoped at least 20 organizations and 500 people would get involved – goals his mother and wife told him were too low, Headley said.

They were right, he told Fort Wayne's downtown Rotary Club during a virtual meeting Monday.

United Front, an initiative of Fort Wayne United, has attracted more than 150 organizations and more than 7,200 people, Headley said, noting participation continues to grow.

“This is not a dream anymore. This is not a concept anymore,” said Headley, Fort Wayne United's director. “It's in action, and it's rolling and it's making an impact.”

The initiative is funded through private donations, although Headley's salary is paid by city dollars, he said. Fort Wayne United, which was created in 2016, advocates for young Black men by working to increase opportunity and decrease crime.

United Front participants pay a fee to join. Costs vary; organizations may pay a group rate or per individual.

The initiative stemmed from the summer's racial and social unrest and focuses the shared humanity philosophy.

“If we focus on the humanity of the next person, we can make a lot more progress than (if we're) focusing in on the things that divide us and the things that separate us from each other, which are politics and race and so many other things,” Headley said.

United Front includes monthly keynote sessions where the community's “top layer of leadership” – including presidents and chief executive officers – can learn about hot-button issues including race and implicit bias in a safe place, Headley said.

The next keynote session is set for Wednesday and will tackle organizational bias, according to the initiative's website.

Monthly Zoom sessions reach even more people from various segments of the community, including education and criminal justice, Headley said.

Along with highlighting United Front, Headley provided an update on the Ten Point Coalition, a citizen foot patrol that concentrates on the north part of the Oxford neighborhood.

Members have stepped in as mediators in tense situations, have responded to crises, and have had more than 480 conversations with Oxford residents since October 2019, Headley said. Information exchanged in those discussions can help Ten Point help the neighborhood, he said.

“We were also told that neighborhood would not give us information,” Headley said, “and we've proven that wrong.”

Other neighborhoods that want the Ten Point Coalition include Bloomingdale and the south part of Oxford, Headley said. Data will drive which areas to serve, he added.

“Expansion is definitely what we want to do next,” he said.

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