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New Online Platform Brings People From Across Milwaukee Together To Talk About Race

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In one of the most segregated cities in the United States, Dominique Samari is working to connect people in from all parts of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee’s deep segregation can make it difficult to connect with people who have different lived experiences.

To help fix this problem, Dominique Samari has created an online platform that intentionally connects people across the city in hopes of fostering new conversations.

Samari is the co-founder of P3 Development Group, a Milwaukee-based consulting company focused on helping organizations make equitable and inclusive change in their communities. Before that she got her law degree from Marquette University and worked as a criminal defense attorney in Milwaukee. Samari also spent almost four years in Afghanistan developing training programs to strengthen the country's criminal justice system.

The platform is called Kin and the currently invite-only site pairs individuals together for a series of guided discussions that ends in a deep conversation about race.

“I started by designing a series of conversations that kind of put them on a course of increase vulnerability across the conversation. Nothing too much but just so they could really get to know each other and then the final conversation is really all about, they exchange questions around race with their partner,” she explains.

The discussions happen over six meetings. During the first five, the participants are asked to not talk at all about race and save their questions for the final exchange.

Samari says that while people are having large conversations around topics like race in forums like workshops or panels, it’s takes a relationship and feeling of comfort to discuss race in a one-on-one setting.

The pandemic has also changed how she has approached Kin.

Over the past year, Samari says as more conversations move to a virtual space, she has actually seen people be more likely to open up. Instead of just responding with a simple and short answer, people have begun answering the question of “How are you?” honestly and sharing real discomfort or joys from their life.

“It’s not uncommon for me to jump on a work or a project call and for someone to share like, I’m really not doing well today, like I’m really having trouble sleeping and I’m having a hard time with this and I just wanted to share. And I think people, at least some people, are moving into a more authentic space around how they're choosing to live their life,” she says.

Race and racism are complicated issues, which is why Samari says Kin is trying to build relationships and give people a partner they can work these issues out with. Unlike other social media platforms, the goal of Kin is not to create friendships.

“Friendships are great, and I think some of my partner pairs have actually developed friendships, but it’s really is mostly about a different level of connection and relationship with individuals that we otherwise wouldn’t necessarily engage with,” she says.

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.
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