UPDATE: Big crowd on hand for discussion about racial inequality - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Big crowd on hand for discussion about racial inequality in Dane County

Posted: Updated: Apr 24, 2014 04:21 PM
MADISON (WKOW) -- It was standing room only Thursday night for the "Together Apart: Talking Across the Social Divide" forum on racial inequality.

The discussion, which centered on how race impacts a person's opportunities to climb up the Dane County social ladder, was led by eight panelists from the community. Everett Mitchell, a pastor and director of community relations at the UW-Madison, was one of them.

"African Americans and other brothers and sisters of color, Latino or Hmong, are struggling to try to integrate into the main system of Madison," Mitchell said. "So forums like this are opportunities for us to have a dialogue."

Among those in attendance was Christopher Bester, an employee of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. Bester brought a group of teens from the Boys and Girls Club with him.

"(The kids) had a lot of smart comments and a lot of questions they wanted answered," Bester said. "So it was the kids that really wanted to come here and speak out to the community."

Mitchell said promoting a dialogue about the race gap is a good first step towards squashing it.

"I came to this community and started at Pizza Hut, of course I had some education, but I ended up at the University of Wisconsin-Madison," Mitchell said. "So obviously I'm going to say opportunities exist."

"I think what we want to do is multiply that effect and give more opportunities and educate the community that's coming to Madison about what those opportunities look like," Mitchell said.

He said step two is to build relationships between various, ethnic communities.

"Now is the time where we have to talk about building our relationships," Mitchell said. "Moving beyond dialogue and really getting to places that make us uncomfortable so we can sit down and build relationships a little bit differently."

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Community leaders from around Madison will gather tonight to lead a discussion about racial disparities in Dane County.

The "Together Apart: Talking Across the Social Divide" forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday evening at the First Unitarian Society at 900 University Bay Drive.

The forum is being hosted by the Cap Times and Wisconsin Public Radio.

The discussion will focus on the reasons for racial disparities - namely issues like education, housing, crime and the economy.

The discussion comes in light of a fall, 2013 "Race to Equity" report put out by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

The report detailed several racial disparities in Dane County. It found 75% of the county's African American children live in poverty compared to just 5% of caucasian children. Black children are also 15x more likely than white children to end up in foster care and 6x more likely than white kids to be arrested, according to the report.

African American adults in Dane County are 5.5x more likely to be unemployed than white adults, the study found.

WKOW will be in attendance at tonight's forum and will bring you some of the discussion on 27 News at 10.

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