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Common Ground project participants generate ideas at February 6 meeting

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (February 11, 2023) – A young Black pastor shares his perspective with a White 25-year veteran of the police force. A White woman who loves gardening and a Mexican woman who owns a business volunteer together to serve lunch to an international dance troupe. A Black couple and a White couple discuss politics and religion. Conversations and interactions like these are all a standard part of the Common Ground project.

At a Monday night meeting hosted at the Lansing Public Library on February 6, nearly 50 Common Ground participants gathered to share their stories and generate ideas for spreading the Common Ground culture in diverse communities like Lansing.

Common Ground project
From left: Deborah Zadrozny, Sharon Giles, Miguel Gutierrez, Jennifer Fischer, Brenda Robinson, Phyllis Warsen (partially hidden), Terri Stallinga, Roseann Dykstra (partially hidden), Linda Buiter, Chloe Harrison, and Tom Stallinga attended the February 6 Common Ground meeting in the library’s Community Room. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Common Ground project
From left: Al Phillips, Barb Dust, Dewayne Sutton, Rich Dust, Thaddeus Searcy, Maureen Grady-Perovich (partially hidden), Adrienne Winchester, Brian Hardy, Kathy Hardy, Lauren Jahn, Karen Abbott Trimuel, Gammon Trimuel, and Valerie McDaniels shared their experiences at the February 6 Common Ground meeting. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The Common Ground project, sponsored by The Lansing Journal, creates a framework for cross-cultural conversations to happen and cross-cultural relationships to develop.

Vision of the Common Ground project

People who signed up for the Common Ground project when it was launched in Lansing in 2020 share a common vision. They want Lansing to be the kind of place where every neighborhood knows how to make newcomers feel welcome, where citizens and police are working together to build community, where the default reaction to people who are different is curiosity and hospitality rather than fear or suspicion.

Through regular conversations about substantial topics such as family traditions, political assumptions, being in the minority, stereotypes, understanding history, and community institutions, Common Ground partners are exposed to new ways of thinking. They learn to ask questions sincerely and answer without taking offense. Sometimes they disagree with each other, but they continue meeting because they understand that agreement isn’t the goal; relationship is. The expressed hope is for Lansing residents to gain positive experience in talking about difficult things, so that when “something” happens — as in Ferguson, or Brunswick, or Memphis — the community comes together to find answers.


Monday’s discussion also turned to how to keep spreading the culture of the Common Ground project into the broader community.

Participants listed a number of local events where they could be present as a group, perhaps wearing Common Ground t-shirts, and possibly handing out information or simply mingling with the public:

  • Fox Pointe concerts
  • National Night Out
  • The Lansing Good Neighbor Day Parade
  • Families Coming Together Makes Healthy Minds — an event planned for April 14 at Coolidge Elementary School
  • Various Human Relations Commission events
  • Quarterly Common Ground meetings — these gatherings would be open to the public, and might become town hall-style meetings regarding ways to continue influencing the broader community

Some Common Grounders also suggested that informational pieces would be helpful to them as they try to explain the program to others:

  • Business cards or postcards that explain the vision and tell people where to sign up
  • Spanish versions of any published materials
  • A Facebook page where participants can share photos, ideas, stories, and information about events
  • Other “younger” social platforms (TikTok, Instagram, etc.)

Action steps

A list of possible next steps for current members included:

  • Offering to serve as an administrator of the Common Ground Facebook Group
  • Offering to figure out how other social platforms could be used to publicize Common Ground
  • Designing a postcard or business card
  • Translating the information
  • Serving as a distributor of printed materials to Common Grounders who need them
  • Writing a short article about Common Ground to be published as a Local Voices piece
  • Continuing to personally invite new people into the Common Ground conversations that are happening

Next Common Ground meeting

The next large-group meeting of the Common Ground project is open to the public. It will again be hosted by the Lansing Public Library in their Community Room, Monday, May 8, 6 p.m.

The Lansing Public Library is located at 2750 Indiana Avenue in Lansing, Illinois. For those who enter through the lower level doors, the Community Room is the first room on the left. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)


Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.