Lance Dixon, Miami Herald

Miami has long been considered one of America’s major melting pots, but local leaders think that different communities aren’t meeting, mixing and sharing ideas. They plan to change that starting next week through a 10-day event called Connect Miami.

Leaders from the Miami Foundation, MCCJ, the Miami Herald, the United Way of Miami-Dade and the Children’s Trust birthed the idea late last year. And starting Monday through May 31 there will be several events intended to bring people together in Miami to foster new conversations.

“Really what we saw the need for was for people to have these conversations and to connect with folks outside of their regular communities, outside of their colleagues, outside of their friends and their families,” Rebecca Mandelman, a vice president with the Miami Foundation, said in a recent Facebook Live discussion.

The organizers have planned several events over the 10 days and they’re designed to force people out of their comfort zones.

Some of them include a basketball game Monday at Booker T. Washington Senior High between police officers and children from the Communities in Schools program. There are also events planned around crocheting, board games, a farm visit in Homestead and a puppet show by the Miami-Dade Police Department’s community education specialists.

Several events are designed to explore topics, identities and cultures through talks with members of the transgender community, Syrian refugees, the Haitian community, and the Muslim community. Additionally there will be tours and events planned around exploring the history of communities and locals like Wynwood, Stiltsville, downtown Miami and Liberty Square.

More than anything, Connect Miami’s goal is to encourage people to approach people with differing views even in more casual situations.

“It can be as simple as talking to the people in the elevator, or the person behind you in the Publix line,” Roberta Shevin, executive director of the MCCJ, said during the Facebook Live chat.

Connect Miami has offered several suggestions for these chats and will host a #LetsDoLunch event Wednesday, May 24, encouraging people to invite someone to lunch of a different race, ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation.

The group is also asking the community to share their experiences through photos and social media using the hashtag #ConnectMiami305.

Information, a full schedule of events and conversation starters can be found on the Connect Miami website at connectmiami.org.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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