Community innovation to reverse institutional and individual racism through conversations focused on relationship-building and shared values.

On the eastern edge of the Black Hills, Rapid City is an urban interface for the Indigenous People from many regional tribes. It is in the sacred heart of treaty lands of the Lakota. It is a place where the Oceti Sakowin (“seven council fires”) gathers regularly, and home to between 15,000 and 20,000 native people.

Rapid City Community Conversations (RCCC) was formed as a native-led grassroots movement. Our mission is to foster a citizen dialogue that collaborates with community leaders to design innovative approaches to steadily reverse the long history of institutional and individual racism in our community. Native and non-native citizens are co-creating a new community that reflects our shared values and honors, respects, and keeps safe all of the people who live here.

In February of 2015, several powerful leaders of the Lakota community came together to discuss the escalating racial conflict in Rapid City, particularly involving police. They endorsed a process to transform the community, not through protests and blaming, but through innovative forward-looking solutions as determined by a grassroots cross-cultural gathering of people. The dialogue was to be led by the volunteer local Host Planning Team and facilitated by LeMoine Lapointe and Mark Anderson of the Barbara Schneider Foundation and hosted by the local planning team.

Our Host Planning Team is comprised of Redboy Means, Dixie Holy Eagle, Cante Heart, Chas Jewett, and Jane Murphy. Each has a strong background in Lakota culture, community organizing, circle facilitation, and/or citizen engagement.

Almost one year later, we have hosted nine community conversations with attendance ranging between 50 and 125 people. Our next conversation, the Community Innovation Summit, is scheduled for February 25, 2016, to celebrate our first anniversary.

Consistent progress has resulted from each conversation. Our most significant accomplishment is the commitment and participation of a broad cross-section of community members and leaders in our community design process.

The potential for lasting change and growing equity in Rapid City is tremendous. The conversations have become the safe place for regular citizens of all races and leaders in public health, business, law enforcement, and public education to meet on equal footing, build relationships, and collaborate on shared objectives. Together with our partners we held a joint press conference on July 21, 2015, to publicly announce our shared vision, our objectives, and our opportunities for involvement.