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Community leader from Seattle aims to get people talking

21 March 2006

Herman McKinney, community leader and Director of the Urban Enterprise Centre in Seattle, is currently in Christchurch and will present his successful community forum, "It’s Time to Talk" tonight (Tuesday 21 March) from 7-9pm at Christ Church Cathedral for Race Relations Day - all are welcome to attend.

In the mid-1990s, Mr McKinney established It’s Time to Talk to create opportunities for diverse communities to interact and for individuals within those communities to learn about each other’s lives and get to know one another. Such is the success of his programme that Mr McKinney was taken to South Africa by Nelson Mandela to implement it there.

Tonight's forum will begin with Mr McKinney giving a talk on race relations, after which randomly selected groups of people will engage in round-table conversations about race relations. Each group will then be challenged to follow up this initial dialogue with a further event for that group.

Mayor Garry Moore said the programme will provide an opportunity for Christchurch residents to meet and relate on a personal level with people from different communities in our city.

"One outcome of the event that I would like to see is Christchurch families sharing a meal in their homes with families or individuals of a different ethnic background to themselves," Mr Moore said.

"This is an excellent opportunity for Christchurch to lead the way for the rest of New Zealand in supporting the diverse groups within our community."

Mr McKinney said that "It’s Time to Talk" stems from 1993 when 8,000 citizens marched from Seattle's inner-city area to the Board of Trustees office of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

"Although Seattle had been touted as one of the country's most liveable cities by a national magazine, the residents of two inner-city communities took exception to this characterisation citing unemployment, poverty, drugs, crime and violence as issues confronting their daily lives," he said.

"The goal we established in Seattle (Christchurch’s Sister City) was to commit to making it the most successful place to live, conduct business and enjoy a high quality of life for all of its citizens. I would expect the same for the city of Christchurch. "

It’s Time to Talk will take place tonight (Race Relations Day, 21 March) at 7-9pm in Christ Church Cathedral. Anyone who would like to attend is welcome and can just turn up.

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