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Come Together Rockford

With small diverse groups and TV, no longer segregated, our community will model compassionate connection, celebrating unity-in-diversity.

Photo of Harlan Johnson
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We’ll Transform The World by Coming Together in Rockford

"Come Together Rockford" will be much more than a TV show.

Imagine a locally originated TV show everyone will watch and help create!  People will gather every week in ongoing diverse groups of about ten people in living rooms and churches in and around Rockford, each group representing a rich diversity of people. We’ll share food (the “Welcome Table”) watch a TV show or DVD and talk. Using our Smart Phones, participants will capture conversations on video as a trained facilitator helps us transform conflict into connection. Volunteers using footage from our gatherings will create a weekly TV program. People will share their stories.  We’ll help them make videos for each show. Magic happens when we see and hear each other’s stories.  Our community will begin to embrace social integration across race, economic, faith, culture and other differences.  No more disconnection, segregation or settling for mere “desegregation.”  True connection and social integration, often forging deep lasting friendships.  The show will become interactive using Skype, eventually becoming a world-wide phenomenon. The whole world will witness and emulate our Transformed Rockford!

This community-wide dialogue will be riveting television, Reality TV that’s real and interactive. We’ll become friends and partners, re-inventing our community – formerly polarized but now known for community in diversity – people having a heart connection.  No longer passive “viewers,” we’ll all own the show, creating new surprises every week. Viewers will start additional groups.   Eventually thousands will gather every week.

The concept is simple: We’ll experience the adventure of discovering fellowship and connection with people we otherwise would never get to know – even people we haven’t dared to try to get to know. Come Together Rockford will utilize the video we watch together and our reactions to it.  We’ll use movies and the TV series Any Day Now, now available on Youtube! It features two women, best friends – with flashbacks of when they were little girls in Birmingham in the 60s.  This show pushes buttons. It will provoke lively discussion and conflict that we’ll transform into dialogue leading to a heart connection.

As we talk, we’ll uncover strong feelings and needs, and instead of becoming alienated, we’ll learn to communicate powerfully and honestly, authentically and without judgment. We’ll all become familiar with Compassionate Communication and Restorative Circles, talking and listening so everyone can get their needs met. Facilitators will help us all learn how to transform conflict into connection and compassion. As people tell their stories, we’ll discover we have much in common, are enriched by our diversity, & committed to justice.

 We will recruit volunteers to host (or participate) in “A Taste of Come Together Rockford.”  Offer it in your home or church, inviting ten people to come, share food, watch the show, “Any Day Now,” and capture conversations and stories with smart phones. Celebrate community now.  Please sign up or contact me.

 Contact: Harlan Johnson 815-968-5433   Cell: 815-494-5666 

Explain your idea

For half a century I’ve participated in many efforts to overcome structural and systemic racism. They’ve all failed, reaching a small minority of the population, but not engaging most people. When I realized that Healing Racism had also failed, I attempted to discover what could appeal to everyone and also help overcome the divisions and inequities we see all around us. Something wonderful happened. I was inspired by a TV series I discovered on Lifetime, The Women’s Channel: Any Day Now. This show has universal appeal, even for people who don’t normally like watching TV. I came up with a new idea. Instead of convening people to meet in order to solve problems like racism, why not create something entirely new and fun: Small ongoing groups that would meet weekly, eat together, watch an episode of Any Day Now, and talk about it and anything else that comes up. Record portions of these conversations on video to be incorporated in a weekly TV show called, Come Together Rockford. If every group is diverse, people will begin to experience something that hasn’t happened naturally – celebrating our diversity by participating in small groups of newfound friends. Beyond racial diversity, economic, cultural, spiritual, political and other differences could be included. People coming from different places could experience a positive connection with others they otherwise might never even meet! We miss out by being segregated – and for the most part throughout the world we all maintain social segregation. Few of us are truly dedicated to “Unity in Diversity” in the way we live our lives. We don’t know how to appreciate what we share, what we have in common, and also appreciate our differences, our uniqueness, learning from each other wonderful things we can incorporate into our own lives. Fostering these connections with no other agenda is rare, yet the payoff can be rewarding. For this to happen, people will need to learn how to communicate in a way different from the way everyone’s learned – talking and listening by focusing on feelings and needs rather than judgment, labeling or diagnosing each other, and choosing not to compete for power. Specific techniques will be introduced into conversations when conflict appears, helping people to stop avoiding conflict, but rather embracing conflict in a new way that deepens relationships and fosters mutual respect. The rational behind this and an introduction to this technique, “Compassionate Communication,” can be found on my website, .

Who Benefits?

EVERYONE who watches the TV Show,"Come Together Rockford," will be exposed to "Compassionate Communication" and many will begin to practice it. Those participating in the small groups will make new friends from groups they otherwise wouldn't have contact with, and together, some groups will take action to improve our community in any way they decide to to.

How is your idea unique?

Virtually all anti-racism programs fail because they attract very few people. Even mention "race," and people race to the exit. By framing this as "Come Together" with sparkle, humor, food, and by broadcast a weekly TV show with highlights of the conversations and people telling their story, we'll attract more to join in the diverse groups and truly be able to celebrate "unity in diversity" and model Compassionate Communication. And by creating a TV show, we'll generate the capital from sponsors to keep it going and expand it. No need for grants once we're up and running - self sustaining. NO ONE has ever done anything like this! It's designed to appeal to EVERYONE, not just a dedicated few.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

I'm Harlan Johnson, founder of the Northern Illinois Institute for the Healing of Racism. I am preparing to assemble a team to implement "Come Together Rockford." This is one project that is part of "Transform Rockford," a region-wide program to transform our community into one of the 25 most attractive regions in the US by 2025. (We're currently plagued by crime, murder, poverty, health issues, obesity, and de facto segregation) I conceived of this 17 years ago, and Come Together Rockford may be ready to become a real thing, with ongoing groups, people putting together the weekly TV show, etc. Discovering who will become partners and organizing the group is my latest challenge.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

Attachments (1)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Harlan!

Thank you for posting.

I am tagging Ashley Tillman here to look at your submission.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Harlan, thanks for sharing your idea. What a creative approach to bridge cultural divides using popular culture!

It's very clear how your idea tackles peace, can you provide a sentence or two explaining how you see this idea tackling planet?

Can you share some of the concrete details (bullet points is fine) for year 1, 2 and 3? Who does your pilot program start with, how many people and how do you measure success?

Also don't forget to check out the Challenge Criteria!