About the Center

In the troubling days following the violent and deadly demonstrations in Charlottesville in August 2017, more than 325 mayors signed a Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry, a 10-point pledge to work toward inclusive and compassionate cities drafted by the Conference in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League.

It was the mayors’ immediate and compelling call for action that quickly led the United States Conference of Mayors to commit to the establishment of a Center that would support mayors’ efforts to make cities across the nation more equitable, more inclusive, and more compassionate. Conference of Mayors President Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia (SC), announced plans to establish the Center (originally titled the Center for Inclusive and Compassionate Cities) in his inaugural address in Columbia on May 7, 2018 and again on June 9 in his President’s Address at the organization’s 86th annual meeting in Boston. The Center was formally launched by Mayor Benjamin in Montgomery (AL) in a November 13-14 Conference of Mayors event that included a discussion session with Bryan Stevenson, the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. (The event was documented for the nation’s mayors by Conference CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran and reported in the Montgomery Advertiser on 11/14/2018 and 11/15/2018.)

Early support from Walmart, followed by the Coca-Cola Company and Comcast, was critical to the establishment of the Center. Their support sends a message to city leaders and business leaders that three of the world’s most successful and influential companies recognize the importance of direct action to confront bias and hate with compassion and inclusion. The Conference of Mayors recognizes that the leadership of the business community will contribute to the success of individual mayors’ efforts, and to the overall success of the Center itself.

Dismantling Systemic Racism

Upon assuming the presidency of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on July 1, 2020, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer launched “An American Breakthrough,” an aggressive program for the year ahead that charged working groups of mayors to provide new perspectives on realizing the potential of America and meeting the most formidable challenges facing the nation today; among these: police reform and racial justice, COVID-19 response and health equity, economic recovery, elimination of poverty, and dismantling systemic racism, a challenge affecting all other efforts undertaken.

The mayors’ working group on systemic racism, co-chaired by Mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Hardie Davis, Jr. of Augusta, and Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, is focused on reform of historic and current public policies that maintain white supremacy. The group’s mission is to provide recommendations for use by the Conference, member mayors, and federal and private sector partners in addressing racial disparities and ensuring more equitable outcomes – politically, socially, and economically – for people of color.

The initial product of the working group was a detailed statement on the impact of systemic racism on communities of color to date in 2020. This statement is incorporated in the Conference’s August 2020 platform of priorities for a safe, sustainable and equitable future: The Mayors’ 2020 Vision: An American Breakthrough.” In the year ahead, reports produced by the mayors’ working group on dismantling sustainable racism will be published on this Center web page.

Conference of Mayors President Columbia (SC) Mayor Steve Benjamin at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL.  The Conference believed the six-acre site, which includes 800 six-foot monuments symbolizing thousands of racial terror lynching victims in the United States, was uniquely appropriate for the launch of a permanent center to support  inclusion and compassion in America’s cities.

A Conference of Mayors delegation of mayors in Montgomery, AL for the launch of the Center for Inclusive and Compassionate Cities, with Bryan Stevenson (front row, center), founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which created the National Memorial for Peace and Justice as well as Montgomery’s Legacy Museum that displays the history of slavery and racism in America.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, then Vice President of the Conference of Mayors, in the Conference’s 2020 Leadership Meeting, held in February in Orlando. Mayor Fischer briefed mayors on the Center’s plans for the year and on his continuing efforts to engage his city’s residents in community service and bring diverse groups together to build the “social muscle” a city needs to respond to crises.

Best Practices

Over the years, mayors across the nation have implemented a wide range of policies designed to strengthen the goals of inclusiveness and compassion for their cities. All mayors are invited to provide information to the Center on their initiatives, to be accessed by other mayors on this Web page. The reports that follow summarize efforts underway in a number of cities; each identifies a person in the city to be contacted for additional information.

Support For Immigrants And Minorities

In July 2019, during a period in which fear and anxiety in immigrant communities across the nation had grown as a result of a range of aggressive anti-immigrant initiatives at the federal level, and fear and anxiety across broader minority communities was being stoked by racist and nativist rhetoric from many sources and by the failure of many at high levels in government to confront it, the Conference invited mayors to describe actions taken to reassure immigrants and all minorities feeling targeted that their city government stands with them, to protect their rights and help counter the racist rhetoric they may feel is directed at them.  Following are examples of statements issued and initiatives launched in cities across the nation.

  • Stockton, CA: Mayor Michael Tubbs states, “In Stockton, we welcome immigrants because we are a city built by immigrants.  Each day Stocktonians of all backgrounds work side by side helping to build a stronger community and living out the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” – that out of many we are one.” The City has produced a  Resource Guide for Immigrant Stocktonians.
  • Washington, DC: Mayor Muriel Bowser states that, “regardless of immigration status, immigrants in DC are our neighbors, coworkers, small business owners, family members, and valued members of our community, and we will continue working together to provide the supports and opportunities that every person in our city deserves.”  The Mayor’s Web site provides an exhaustive list of services and other resources available to immigrants.
  • Rochester, MN: Mayor Kim Norton and Police Chief Jim Franklin issued a statement on July 11 in response to threatened ICE raids. The Mayor stresses regular communications with members of the City’s diverse communities, the City’s relationship with the Diversity Council, and increased community relationship building activities (Safe City Nights) sponsored by law enforcement throughout the summer.
  • Evanston, IL: Mayor Stephen Hagerty issued statements in June in English and in Spanish and in July regarding expected ICE activity.
  • Nashville, TN: Mayor David Briley published a Spanish-language (English subtitled) PSA that logged more than 110,000 views shortly after its release on July 12.  A statement targeted to the immigrant community was issued on July 22 following a highly-publicized incident in which an ICE attempt to arrest residents was blocked by community members.
  • Santa Fe, NM: Mayor Alan Webber issued a statement on the threat of coordinated nationwide ICE raids in which he referred to them as “fundamentally un-American and antithetical to our values. Even the suggestion is enough to foster fear among all our people, not just immigrants. It hurts our law enforcement, hampers our economy, traumatizes families and children, and casts a shadow on the whole community.”  A summary of Santa Fe’s response is HERE.

Resources to Support City Efforts

Documenting the Problems

Across the nation, numerous national organizations work with cities to combat the social, racial, economic and other inequities that stand as barriers to inclusiveness and compassion in communities. These organizations, many of which are interrelated and jointly sponsor programs, serve as resources for mayors and other city leaders, providing ideas for initiatives as well as direct assistance in implementing and operating them. For the following examples, mission statements and services described are based on information provided on the organizations’ Websites.


  • Not in Our Town – Established in 1995 as a movement to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all, Not in Our Town uses film, social media, and organizing tools to help local leaders build diverse cities and towns. Resources, including workshops and action kits, are focused on schools, law enforcement, and communities. NIOT is a project of The Working Group, an Oakland-based nonprofit founded in 1988.
  • ADL Center on Extremism – Over the past decade, COE has trained 100,000 law enforcement personnel through its partnerships with law enforcement initiative. Its newest program, Managing Implicit Bias for Law Enforcement, provides police officers with onsite, customizable training designed to reduce the influence of bias in interactions and decision-making, contribute to improved police-community relations, and increase officer safety.
  • Living Cities Founded in 1991, Living Cities works collectively with cross-sector leaders in cities to develop and scale up new approaches geared to achieving dramatically better results for low-income people and the cities where they live. The organization “harnesses the collective power of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to build a new type of urban practice.” The Website lists an extensive and wide-ranging list of resources that have been developed and applied in numerous cities. The Website also includes an interactive map of the cities in which Living Cities has worked, with details on the scope of that work and mayoral roles in it.
  • Government Alliance on Race and Equity – A national network of local and regional governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all people, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) provides technical training as well as resources such as racial equity guidebooks and action toolkits, which are available on the organization’s Website. A joint project of Race Forward and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, GARE has worked with over 205 government jurisdictions.
  • Race ForwardFounded in 1981, Race Forward employs systematic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. The organization conducts original and broadly available research on pressing racial justice issues ranging from immigration to economic inequality. Services described on the Website range across media advocacy, policy and program development, strategic coaching, curriculum design, educational material production, public presentations and keynote speeches, investigative journalism, community organizing, leadership development and applied technology. Information is available from Travon Anderson at tanderson@raceforward.org.
  • Center for Social Inclusion – United with Race ForwardCSI was established in 2002 to catalyze community, government, and other institutions to dismantle structural racial inequity and create equitable outcomes for all. The mission is to craft and apply strategies and tools to transform policies, practices, and institutions in order to achieve racial equity. The organization’s programs address equity across areas such as broadband, food, energy, and transportation, and its Website includes examples of cities that have employed their strategies and tools. In 2017, CSI and Race Forward announced that they were uniting and integrating the two organizations under Race Forward. GARE, described above, is a core program of CSI.
  • Racial Equity Here Living Cities, GARE, Race Forward, and the Haas Institute are the founding partners of a movement of hundreds of community organizations, local governments, foundations, schools and businesses across the country working together to advance racial equity. Information is on the Living Cities and GARE Websites. The Racial Equity Here Website provides tools to help organizations learn about race, racism and racial equity; act to advance racial equity by using a simple racial equity tool; and partner locally and across the country to drive a common agenda.
  • Groundwork USA – A national network of local organizations, Groundwork USA’s mission is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement, and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships that empower people, businesses, and organizations to promote environmental, economic, and social well-being. The network aims to undo legacies of poverty and racial discrimination and break the trend of widening disparity between communities that are enjoying a renaissance and those experiencing disinvestment, neglect, and deepening poverty. Focus areas of assistance to communities are: Equity and Inclusion, Healthy Communities, Transforming Brownfields, Urban Waters, and Youth Development. The organization’s Website provides details on services available.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center – The Center’s Teaching Tolerance initiative, founded in 1991, provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. The program emphasizes anti-bias and social justice. Classroom lessons, webinars, grants, podcasts, and policy guides are among free resources available. Educators use materials to supplement curriculum, inform their practices, and create civil and inclusive school communities. More than 500,000 educators are currently involved in some aspect of the program. Information is on the Center’s Website.
  • Equal Justice Initiative – Working with communities that have been marginalized by poverty and discouraged by unequal treatment, EJI provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. Founded and led by Bryan Stevenson and committed to changing the narrative about race in America, the organization challenges the death penalty and excessive punishment and provides re-entry assistance to formerly incarcerated people. Services described on EJI’s Website include research and recommendations to assist advocates and policymakers engaged in criminal justice reform.

  • Public Welfare Foundation – Focusing on catalyzing a transformative approach to justice that is community-led, restorative, and racially just, the Public Welfare Foundation is confronting the nation’s crisis of incarceration by shifting its grantmaking approach to focus on getting resources closer to the ground where promising solutions are happening. Grants go to nonprofits focused on racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. Details on the Foundation’s engagement in cities are on its Website.


  • Racial Equity Core Teams ToolkitA Report published by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity provides a toolkit for developing Racial Equity Core Teams, which serve as primary leadership teams, including both formal and informal leaders, that are responsible for designing, coordinating, and organizing racial equity plans and activities across government jurisdictions or institutions that are committed to equitable systems change.
  • Getting Ready for Racial Equity Work: The ‘Racial Equity Here’ EvaluationThe Racial Equity Here initiative, described above, was launched in May 2016 with work in five major U.S. cities that were committed to improving racial equity and advancing opportunity for all. This Evaluation of the Racial Equity Here initiative is designed to offer recommendations for other cities interested in applying a racial equity lens to their policies and operations.
  • Responding to Hate and Bias at School – Published by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, this Guide prepares school administrators and staff to plan and manage student incidents involving bigotry and hate. Guidance is provided in three sections: Before a Crisis Occurs; When There’s a Crisis; After the Worst is Over.
  • Advancing Equity and Inclusion: A Guide for MunicipalitiesThis publication was developed by the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI), an organization of Canadian women from diverse communities, organizations, and universities working with city decision makers to create more inclusive cities and advance gender equality. While the Guide is modeled for Canadian cities, its recommended approaches to building equity and inclusion are applicable to all municipalities.

Incidents of hate in its many forms have been documented on an annual basis in the U.S. for many years. In recent years, the increase in the number and intensity of incidents reported has been significant. This is illustrated in recent reports by three organizations established to counter hate in our society.

ADL – The Anti-Defamation League

Established more than a century ago, the ADL’s mission of fighting anti-Semitism, hate and bigotry within our society takes many forms: partnering with schools to teach students to be allies; helping public and private sectors to reduce bias and stereotyping; building bridges between interfaith groups; sharing expertise in fighting extremism and hate crimes with law enforcement; collaborating with NGOs; and working with policymakers from all backgrounds.

Each year ADL publishes an audit of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. In 2018, ADL recorded 1,879 such incidents. With White supremacists stepping up their activities, the number of incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism remained at near-historic levels. (In the previous year, incidents shot up dramatically, to the highest level ever recorded – 1,986.) This most recent audit shows:

  • A dramatic increase in physical assaults, including the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history;
  • a wave of robocalls targeting Jewish schools, Jewish Community Centers, and synagogues; and
  • a significant number of incidents at K-12 schools and college campuses.

ADL’s Center on Extremism is the agency’s research and investigative arm, and a clearinghouse of information about extremism of all types, including white supremacists and Islamic extremists. For decades, COE analysts have tracked extremist activity in the U.S. and abroad, assisted law enforcement with countless investigations, and helped disrupt and prevent multiple terror attacks.

Communities Against Hate

Established in March 2017, Communities Against Hate (CAH) is a national initiative led by The Leadership Conference Education Fund in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and is made up of a diverse coalition of national organizations and neighborhood groups that document stories and respond to incidents of violence, threats, and property damage motivated by hate in the United States. CAH provides a safe place for survivors and witnesses to share stories of hate incidents through its online database and telephone hotline.

In January 2019 CAH reported that more than two-thirds of Americans believed that hate incidents had intensified over the past two years. The CAH report documents where incidents occur, which communities are most likely to experience them, and what form they most often take. It analyzes results of a Hate Incidence Poll and nearly 4,000 incident reports submitted to the CAH online database. Across respondents, data show hate incidents being experienced by 73 percent of Americans of Middle East or Arab descent, 59 percent of Hispanic Americans, and 47 percent of African Americans. Nearly 40 percent of those perpetrating incidents invoked the name of an alt-right hate group or involved 2016 presidential election-related rhetoric. Five percent of hate incidents occurred on the street, 14.55 percent at a business location, and 13 percent in private residences. Across respondents:

  • 84 percent felt hate incidents were now prevalent;
  • 66 percent felt that incidents or expressions of hate are getting worse; and
  • 18 percent experienced episodes of depression following hate incidents, highlighting the mental wellness implications of a hate-filled climate.

CAH officials said the report findings underscore the need for better data collection, comprehensive policy reform, and widespread support for combating hate incidents. The report is at Hate Magnified: Communities in Crisis.

Over Zero, New America

Building U.S. Resilience to Political Violence, a 2019 paper published by Over Zero with The New Models for Policy Change Initiative at New America, examines the rise of violence and hate speech in the U.S., the increase in public rhetoric that seems to condone if not encourage violence, and the declining legitimacy of U.S. democratic institutions, and warns that the 2019-2020 period brings a set of political and cultural events, including the run-up to a U.S. presidential election and the census, that will likely further escalate tensions and increase the risk of violence and instability.

The 50-page paper applies insights and lessons learned from social science and international peacebuilding to describe areas most likely to bolster resilience in the face of political violence in the U.S. Highlighting four risk factors for violence – factionalization of political groups, societal polarization, a rise in hate speech and rhetoric, and weakening institutions – it suggests five interventions to increase societal resilience to political violence and serve as long-term foundations of a healthier society: bolstering inclusive, influential voices within diverse American communities; supporting targeted communities; protecting, supporting and training the media to heed the best practices of reporting amidst division; laying the groundwork for a coordinated response to violence; and protecting and strengthening capacities for resilience.

Measures of Racial Disparities

The depth and breadth of systemic racism in America have come under renewed examination in 2020 as COVID-19 sweeps away lives and livelihoods and as Black Lives Matter and related equal justice protests continue through the year. There is growing awareness that the systemic racism that has tainted virtually every aspect of modern society must finally be dismantled. Following are selected indicators of the problem published in recent years. View the indicators here.