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Rockford Residents 'Choose Civility' During The Kick-Off Of A New Community Initiative

We live in uncivil times: There are more ways than ever to insult and be insulted by people with different views. That’s why a national initiative called “Choose Civility” was started. Rockford kicked off its own take on the movement Tuesday night.

Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ
Ellyn Ahmer and her invitation to the people of Rockford

The crowd of about 200 at Heartland Community Church raised its collective right hand and pledged to be honest, respectful, considerate, and kind – even when they disagree. “815 Choose Civility” is part of a national initiative to help people be better-informed and get more involved in their communities. One of the organizers, Ellyn Ahmer, stood in the hallway afterward holding a small bright sign that simply said “Let’s Talk!” Her hope is that this event evolves into smaller, honest conversations throughout Rockford about what’s important to the community, including “Listening rather than speaking and seeing if there isn’t something to understand in the listening. And find common ground.”

Shamika Williams runs K-FACT: Keeping Families and Communities Together, with a goal of getting at-risk girls in Rockford to break out of poverty and pursue education beyond high school. She says she wants the girls to learn to get ahead by being civil: it can open doors for them without compromising their values. But that’s a message that has to come from the right source: Williams says Tuesday’s gathering was made up of people who are already believers in civil conversations. Holding more forums like this one in different parts of the city is a start, but the right messengers need to be there.  She says “A person who they don’t identify with, they can’t be transparent with, you can put on the event right in their front yard and they won’t come. It has to be a relationship there and someone who can reach them, so at least get them to hear the message.”

The group is planning other events, including a workshop on media literacy.

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.
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