Talking Circles: Racism Real Talk!  


If you have questions about the Talking Circles, please email To receive regular announcements about upcoming Talking Circles and other MRC programs, you can sign up for the MRC newsletter here.


The Multicultural Resource Center’s Talking Circles on Race and Racism bring together participants for a 1.5 day where participants engage in diverse, in-depth activities (dialogue, popular education activities) that dismantle systemic racism, build strategies for resistance and alternatives, and promote healing practices for racial trauma.

The Talking Circles offer a unique learning community that strengthens participants’ foundational knowledge and capacity to

  • Analyze structural racism & power dynamics in your personal life, social environment, and workplace/organization,
  • Reflect on your own knowledge and understand your experiences differently,
  • Take informed and conscious action to address systemic racism, and
  • Access a support system to sustain self-organized collective racial justice action.

Redesigned Talking Circles

The redesigned Talking Circles incorporate feedback generated from a multi-year study assessing the Talking Circle's impact on previous participants as well as feedback from participant focus groups in 2015.  The new Circles include an emphasis on systemic racism, intersectionality, and racial identity development and uses a range of new experiential tools alongside the Circle’s core feature of small group dialogue.

The Circles are now done over the course of 1.5 days to allow for full immersion in the content and depth of learning. The Circles are also now done in people of color and white caucuses. This comes as a results of participants of color reporting feeling that the Talking Circles functioned largely as an opportunity to help white participants “get it.” MRC hosted focus groups for 2015 participants of color (POC), who said that the Circles didn’t offer an opportunity for many participants of color to work “on our own stuff.” While we do not expect racism, biases, and microaggressions to cease in race alike spaces, we do believe there is a need to offer an opportunity for participants of color and white participants to learn in environments where identity specific needs and experiences can be honored and attended to fully.


With exceptions for family or health emergencies, attendance at the entirety of the two day session is required, as discussions and content builds on itself over the course of two days.


Registration is on a first come first serve basis. When you register you will receive an email confirming that you are signed up or that you are on the waitlist for the session. If registration for a session is full, you will need to register again for a future session. 


Talking Circles are now provided on a sliding scale basis. Your payment, based on your income bracket, as defined below, helps sustain this program and provides the opportunity for scholarship for future participants.  MRC is a small, grassroots non-profit and long term sustainability for our programs, campaigns and services depends on contributions from community for the skills, development, and education trainings we provide. MRC has developed a pay scale for individual registration as well as a scale for organizations to contract MRC for a non-public Talking Circle for internal organizational development.

          If your income is...                          You pay                          Organization Budget...              Org. Package Rate

          under $15,000  ............................  $50                                   under $100,000  ...........................  $1,400

          $15,001-$27,000  ........................  $100                                 $100,001-$200,000  .....................  $2,700

          $27,001-$40,000  ........................  $150                                 $200,001 and over  ........................ $3,900

          $40,001-$54,000  ........................  $200

          $54,001 and over  ........................  $255

Additionally, MRC now has a sliding scale for organizations interested in sponsoring staff member(s) to attend public Talking Circles:

          Organization Budget...                   Cost per staff

          under $100,000  ...........................  $100

          $100,001-$200,000  .....................  $175

          $200,000 and over  .......................  $285

Please make your payment via Paypal, Cash or Check. Checks can be sent to 615 Willow Ave, Suite M, Ithaca, NY 14850, with memo "Talking Circles." Please email for scholarship opportunities. 


The MRC started the Talking Circles in 2007 and was led by Audrey Cooper to address long-standing community tensions around race; the Circles were envisioned as way to engage people in open and honest dialogue with each other in a safe space and to begin the process of healing old racial wounds.

MRC has held Talking Circles for over 650 participants, and the program continues to grow exponentially to this day!

who we serve

The Talking Circles serve a diverse range of people with different racial identities from urban, suburban and rural environments. Past participants of Talking Circles include: Staff and faculty in the Ithaca City School District; Cornell University and Ithaca College college students and staff; local politicians at the city and county level; staff and faculty from Wells College; teachers, staff and board members from New Roots Charter School; City of Ithaca staff, including the Ithaca Police Department; and prison workers, social workers, youth workers and community members of all ages, races and economic backgrounds.

For some participants, this program is the first time they spoke candidly on issues of race. Other groups have taken action, such as a group of Cornell students who compiled a list of campus diversity issues to give to campus administration. Other individuals have formed alliances and are working together on anti-racism projects throughout the community. All past participants are invited to join our discussion list serve. One notable result of the Talking Circles is that the United Against Hate campaign grew out of a discussion on the list serve.


Timeline of Racism in the US - A living document created by the staff at MRC noting key dates in US history that have contributed to the formation of white supremacy and are the foundation of systemic racism in the US.

Levels of Racism - Created by the MRC for the Talking Circles program, this document breaks down the levels at which racism is present in our society.

Racial Identity Development - Created by Beverly Daniel Tatum, explores the stages at which individuals experience their own racial consciousness.

For more learning, see our Resource Hub.