The first of three events designed to continue a community dialogue about race drew about 120 people, with the second session already filled to capacity with advance registration.

The first session took place July 11 at Bexley Public Library, 2411 E. Main St., with the library, the city of Bexley, the Bexley City School District, the Bexley Diversity & Inclusion Initiative and the YWCA of Columbus serving as co-sponsors.

The event was designed to build on the "Safe Conversations about Race" series held at the library last fall and earlier this year, said Ben Heckman, the library's director.

"From that series, we got a lot of questions -- 'How do we teach our kids?' " he said.

After the YWCA Columbus proposed launching another series of community conversations about race, "we felt like, it's topical, it's another difficult conversation, so let's try to have a place where people can come and learn about it," Heckman said.

During the July 11 event, participants broke into groups of four and discussed the topic of "white privilege," the concept that white people have inherent advantages over other racial groups, said Maurice Stevens, a professor in Ohio State University's Comparative Studies Department who helped to facilitate the conversation.

" 'White privilege' has to do with how we've come to understand race," Stevens said. "It's hard to talk about what 'whiteness' is, because we haven't done that (historically)."

The event was designed to help the diverse group of participants understand each other's perspectives on race, Stevens said.

"This is not a debate," he said.

The next two events are scheduled for Sept. 12 and Nov. 14 at the library.

"There is still room in the Nov. 14 event," Heckman said. "The Sept. 12 event is full, but there is a waiting list."

The organizers will take into account feedback from participants of the July 11 event in planning the format of the next two events, said Mary Lou Langenhop, one of the facilitators and the former president and chief executive officer of the Children's Hunger Alliance-Ohio.

"We're going to keep exploring what works," she said. "And we don't have all the answers."

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