While Black Lives Matter protests continue nationwide and locally, officials in Lakewood are looking to learn more about how they can improve handling racial diversity.

Mayor Meghan George, her administration and City Council are taking part in the “21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice” program created by the YWCA of Greater Cleveland. City officials have until the end of the year to complete the challenge, which seeks to shine a light on racial inequity.

“There’s a lot for us to learn,” said Councilwoman Sarah Kepple. “Lakewood is a pretty progressive community with ideals of diversity and racial inclusion in the community. But we need to make sure we are doing the work to make sure we are being truly inclusive in making Lakewood a welcoming place for all of our residents.”

The free YWCA program’s goal is to build social justice habits dealing with race, power, privilege and leadership. Officials hope participation will help the city, which has historically been predominantly white, to create a better understanding of systemic and social issues affecting minorities in the community.

The virtual program covers four topics: education, voting, public health and criminal justice. Each of the 21 days, a new topic related to these issues, such as policing and how to be an anti-racist will be discussed through videos, podcasts or news articles. Fire Chief Timothy Dunphy and Police Chief Timothy Malley will also take part in the challenge.

“It’s a good first step for those looking to change the way they think about issues of race,” said YMCA Project Manager Paige Robar “We hope that through this, city officials and members of the community can start finding ways to be better allies to minorities in their city.”

The program was first introduced by the organization last year. More than 2,000 people participated in the first two weeks, covering things such as homelessness, the wealth gap and white privilege. It was so successful it was reintroduced at the beginning of the year and so far more than 3,500 people have taken part.

Members of the community are also encouraged to participate and can take the challenge at ywcaofcleveland.org.

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 216-307-6614.

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