Dialogue on Race

Steering Committee

Dialogue on Race was the result of years of hard work, “grassroots energy,” and long-term commitment of three groups: the Human Relations Council (HRC) of Montgomery County, The Community Group, and the Dialogue on Race Steering Committee.

The HRC, created in 1993 by the Board of Supervisors, and the Community Group, formed by the Reverend John Price and Penny Franklin in 2006, the first African-American to be elected to public office in Montgomery County, laid the foundation for our current work.  The HRC was created to address racial issues as they occurred. The Community Group’s goal is to help unify the African-American community and encourage other black residents to run for public office.  But neither group’s focus was on bringing a diverse group of people together to talk.  Thus the need for the third group: the Dialogue on Race steering Committee.

From 2010 until early 2012, a small steering committee—Penny Franklin, Andy Morikawa, Dave Britt, Ben Dixon, Jim Dubinsky, Ray Plaza, Wornie Reed, and Latanya Walker—worked to find a model that would accomplish the goal of bringing people together to talk about race and begin to address problems of inequality around education, pay, and employment opportunities.  A few of these fine folk moved on after retiring (Ben Dixon) or finding new jobs (Ray Plaza).  The Steering Committee for the first two Summits included Penny, Andy, Dave, Jim, Wornie, and Latanya.  Latanya stepped down in early 2014, and that is when Holly Lesko joined the group.  Late in 2014, Martha Ann Stallings and Lisa Garcia joined as Steering Committee members. In 2016, Holly Lesko stepped down from leading the White Privilege Issue Group and Debbie Sherman-Lee joined the Steering Group in her place. 

Current Steering Committee Members

Penny Franklin

Penny Franklin is a lift truck operator in Shipping Utility at Hubbell Lighting, and she serves on and is former chair of the Montgomery County Board of Education; member of the Virginia School Board Association Board of Directors; president of Local 82160 of the IUE/CWA; former board chair, now Area Chair of the Montgomery Count-Radford City-Floyd County NAACP; and member of the national Executive Council of the IUE.  She is co-founder of the Community Group, an African American civil society organization in Montgomery County; founding member of the New Mountain Climbers, the first giving circle in southwest Virginia, the first African American philanthropy in southwest Virginia.

Andy Morikawa

IPG Senior Fellow at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy & Governance; board member of The Community Group of Montgomery County, the New Mountain Climbers giving circle, and the SustainFloyd Foundation. Founding member of the Dialogue on Race steering group.  He hosts the IPG podcast, Trustees Without Borders; and, the Academy for Global Engineering podcast, Engineers for the World.

Wornie Reed

Wornie Reed, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, and Director of the Race and Social Policy Research Center at Virginia Tech University.  Professor Reed has taught courses, conducted research, and published numerous articles and eight books on medical care, health and illness, urban communities, and criminal and juvenile justice.  In addition, he served a three-year term (1990-92) as President of the National Congress of Black Faculty, and he is past president of the national Association of Black Sociologists (2000-2001).

Martha Ann Stallings

Martha Ann Stallings recently retired from The Virginia Tech Training & Technical Assistance Center which is funded through the Virginia Department of Education to support students with disabilities. Prior to working at TTAC she spent 25 years in Montgomery County Public Schools  where she taught at four schools and was the Supervisor of Staff Development for six years. While at the central office she provided professional development for PK-12 educators. In addition, she was a member of the Diversity Forum and was instrumental in organizing and supporting middle and high school student diversity groups and grants.

Debbie Sherman-Lee

Debbie is a retired teacher from Montgomery County Public Schools. For 36 years, she taught health, physical education and driver’s education. She currently leads the Jim Crow/White Privilege Issue Group for the Dialogue on Race. 

 As a member of Asbury United Methodist Church, she serves on the PPR Committee and is a member of the United Methodist Women’s Group. She is also a member of the Community Group and New Mountain Climbers, in the local chapter of the NAACP she serves on the Awareness Committee. She is also a member of theChristiansburg Ruritan Club, member of the Executive Board for the Montgomery County Education Foundation of the NRV.