The C* Project—Courageous Conversations about Diversity/Inclusion in the Greater Midwest
I have long believed that there’s a huge disparity between the Midwest’s metropolitan areas and rural areas relative to understanding the value of diversity and inclusivity and the need to welcome everyone. In part, the disparity is due to greater resources and needs in cities such as Minneapolis or Chicago. There are also far more diverse people living in urban settings.
Still, the greater Midwest is experiencing a large influx of foreign-born workers and their families. Moreover, progress in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has motived more persons to “come out” as their true selves. Throw in also that every community has issues relative to gender equality and fair treatment of persons with disabilities.
Given this, there’s enormous work to be done in the greater Midwest. The starting point is honest communication about what it means to be “different” and not one of “us.” As I’ve travelled the country giving presentations, I see that most people want to do the right thing when it comes to inclusivity toward others who aren’t white, heterosexual or Christians or without a disability. The problem is that they don’t have a framework for how to accomplish broadscale inclusivity.
Enter the C* Project, which incorporates my various experiences and skillsets. (A description of the project follows.) My goal with the project is to present in as many small towns as possible, and in the process, enlist others to continue the dialogue that the project begins.
In short, it’s time for all parts of the Midwest—urban and rural—to be on equal footing relative to diversity and inclusivity. Will you help me to accomplish that?
What is The C* Project?
The C* Project mission is to cause courageous conversations that will lead to compassionate positive change in how we interact toward humans whom we consider “different” from “us.”
Motivation and Goals for the Project
The C* Project is designed to spark positive change where everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, country of origin or disability status, is included rather than excluded. The C* Project originated from understanding that public dialogue about diversity and inclusion occurs far less frequently in the greater Midwest than it does in larger urban centers. As a consequence, acceptance of persons who are “different” is more limited outside Midwest cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago or Kansas City.
The goal of The C* Project is to promote better inclusivity and acceptance of diverse humans. This can only come through courageous conversations where fears, hopes, and attitudes are brought into the open. Those conversations will help listeners understand that biases for or against certain persons are innate and that the human tendency to judge others can be modified only through conscious effort. All of us have far more in common than we have differences.
How the Project Works
The C* Project centers on a presentation, “Gray Area Thinking: Understanding Diverse Humans,” which begins with a brief video clip that depicts Darnell Barton (a City of Buffalo, NY bus driver) saving a complete stranger from suicide. The video underscores the fundamental tools of “Thinking Gray”: (a) awareness of human suffering/struggling; (b) risk-taking to alleviate that suffering; and (c) acts of compassion/kindness.
From there, the presentation specifically addresses what it means to be “different” (and struggle) in a society that for now, is predominately white, heterosexual, and Christian.
One focus of the presentation is how America is rapidly changing. Foreign born persons, transplants from other states, non-Christians and persons “coming out” as gay/lesbian or transgender are becoming more and more common across the Midwest. The C* Project seeks to help everyone understand the challenges and rewards to welcoming/including everyone in our communities.
Apart from fostering positively changed attitudes toward those who are “different” from “us”, The C* Project seeks to inspire others to act as local agents of change who can continue meaningful dialogue about diversity and inclusion.
The C* Project presentations take place in spaces (public libraries, churches, social service agency meeting rooms) with both public leaders and the general public being involved. Presentations (including question and answers) vary in length; optimally, we would have 4-5 hours for a comprehensive workshop. At a minimum, we need 2 hours to cover the basics.
Ellen (Ellie) Krug and Origins of the Project
The C* Project is a personal initiative of Ellen (Ellie) Krug, a lawyer and nonprofit executive director. (Note: The C* Project is unrelated to Ellie’s Minneapolis nonprofit which works to connect low-income persons with civil legal resources.) Ellie, a transgender woman who transitioned from male to female in 2009, has presented on her experiences and resulting life lessons to Fortune 100 corporations, universities and colleges and nonprofits. She is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (Stepladder Press 2013).
The C* Project incorporates thoughts and ideas about unconscious bias, micro-inequities and cultural humility. Importantly, The C* Project aims to spark an old-fashioned concept: human to human communication, with the firm conviction that most people really want to do the right thing.
How to Arrange for The C* Project Presentations
Persons or organizations who are interested in hearing more about The C* Project or seeking to arrange for a presentation can email Ellie Krug at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 319-360-1692. A downloadable description of The C* Project can be found by clicking The C Project 10.15
Pricing for The C* Project is flexible. Presently, donations to The C* Project are not tax deductible.
* Courage, compassion/kindness, communicating, changing attitudes, color of one’s skin, cooperation, certainty, connectedness, collaboration, core beliefs, community, challenging the status quo, cheerleading, commonality, children succeeding, conscious understanding, coming around, catalyst.