About us

A Brief History of Exploring
Racism Groups:

In 2015, a small group of white people began to meet monthly to explore a common focus: how do we as white people engage in dismantling racism – in identifying our own racist biases, identifying our racist behaviors, and putting our beliefs into action.

Two of the group members, Tom Mitchell and Frank Staropoli, saw a pattern that concerned them: Although there was a growing array of events and workshops and seminars for business people, the organizational leaders (owners, presidents, CEO’s) were notably absent. They were soon joined by Gary Domenico. The three set out to create similar groups, specifically geared to these leaders.

Since then, the groups expanded to include leaders from the Not-for-Profit world, as well as government leaders. And the description of “leader” expanded to include influencers, people who by their role and responsibilities and personalities have significant impact on the culture of an organization and/or community.

A curriculum was developed, so that each monthly meeting has a particular focus, with Pre-work that includes articles and videos related to the topics. This input is continually updated to include varying perspectives on race/racism, on a conservative to progressive spectrum.

We seek diversity within the cohorts.  Members vary in gender, organizational roles, political persuasions, and racial identity.  The cohorts become a microcosm of a diverse organization, a safe, facilitated crucible in which to explore attitudes, biases and realities related to race and racism.  Note:  Cohorts may or may not include People of Color, depending on the registrations at any time.

In response to the concern that this not be simply an empty, fruitless learning exercise, a vigorous process has been added at the end, resulting in Personal Action Plans, presented to and vetted by each cohort.

Our cohort sessions are facilitated by skilled leaders who meet monthly to refine our facilitation skills and provide a sounding board and forum for discussing best practices.

There is no fee for participation in an Exploring Racism Group. The organizers, all volunteers, cover the minor costs.

We ask participants to make attendance a very high priority. Race/racism is a topic that almost automatically heightens sensitivity, tension and a sense of vulnerability. These Groups need to create an atmosphere of honesty, openness and safety, and to do that quickly and intentionally. That can only be done with consistent attendance. We have had participants connect for sessions while on business travel, during vacations, during illness, even chemo treatments!

We continue to evolve and learn what is most helpful by:

  • Referring to our Mission Statement
  • Listening to our Advisors and our participants through feedback vehicles
  • Vigorous discussions within our Steering Committee and Accountability Panel (see members below)
  • And reading the signs of the times.

Our Mission

Exploring Racism Groups provide an opportunity for organizational leaders in our community to grow in their knowledge about racism, understand their own biases and perspectives, and become an antiracist by taking action to promote racial justice, and to break down the structures of racism in their own spheres of influence.

Our Focus

ERG’s Focus on African-American/Caucasian Dynamics

The content and focus of Exploring Racism Groups is on a very specific societal issue: the history and the present state of the dynamics that occur between African-Americans (those whose roots trace back to enslavement) and Caucasians. This focus is justified by the toxic and traumatic original enslavement, and the vestiges of that period that are proven to be existent even today. The current cost of these dynamics is viewed by many as the most serious unresolved issue of our present culture, not only for African-Americans, but for all Americans. We study the unique history rooted in the initial injustice of slavery, further deepened over the years by the Civil War, Reconstruction and its deconstruction, the Jim Crow Era, lynchings, Black Code laws, and other targeted discrimination practices.

We examine the residual impact of those tragic eras in the present day – severe impacts for African-Americans, and also impacts on white people. We examine the ways in which we each personally participate in these dynamics. And we examine the varied approaches to resolving these dynamics, from both progressive and conservative viewpoints.

The racial dynamics we study have very direct parallels to the experiences of other marginalized people over the centuries. We hope that the learnings derived from this deeper dive into the particular relationship between African-Americans and Caucasians will be found applicable to the other divides that exist in our history and in our present, including, for example, Islamaphobia, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia and antisemitism.  These forms of hatred, separation, exclusion, and “cancelling” have become more and more common in recent times.  For example, White Nationalists (whose intention is to form an all-white society) use antisemitism to convince us that a Jewish-controlled cabal is promoting the empowerment of Black and Brown people. 

Current Topic Sequence

If these sessions interest you, please reach out to us in order to sign up and participate.

Introductory Session
  • Participant and facilitator introductions
  • Personal introductions and reasons for joining this group
  • Basic norm and guidelines for the most benefit
  • A sampling of the recognizing differences and biases within the group topic
Bias, Prejudice, and
  • Understanding our unconscious perceptions and beliefs
  • Identifying personal examples
  • How this relates to race and racism
Understanding Black Experiences of Life

2 Sessions

  • Hearing, reading, seeing stories
  • Hearing, reading, seeing facts
  • Recognizing misinformation and bias or stereotypes
Understanding White Experience of Life

2 Sessions

  • Education by osmosis
  • The history of race and racism
  • Myths and facts
  • White discomfort about racial matters
Bias, Prejudice, and

2 Sessions

  • Definitions and understanding
  • How privilege operates; how we deny it yet defend it.
  • Exploring personal examples – hearing, seeing, reading stories
Recognizing Forms
of Racism

2 Sessions

  • Personal and interpersonal
  • Structural
  • Institutional and systemic
Anti-racism Engagement

2 Sessions

  • Examples of action steps
  • Identifying action steps in your own spheres of influence
  • Presentation of Personal Action Plans; feedback, suggestions

Our Steering Committee

To learn the role of the Steering Committee click here

Frank Staropoli



Former Pres. Great Lakes Leadership Group, Inc. and Staropoli Consulting, Inc.,

Fred Beer

Fred Beer

President – ITX Corp.

Gary Domenico



Former Owner and CEO – General Code, LLC

Leticia Fornataro

Architect, Senior Associate at SWBR; Board Chair, Kirkhaven, Board Member, YWCA, Board Member, SWBR, Town of Pittsford, Design Review and Historic Preservation Board Member

Alexis Vogt, PhD

Endowed Chair & Professor of Optics

Monroe Community College

Tom Mitchell


Facilitator, Weekly Sharing Producer

Former CEO – Bergmann, Trustee Rochester Area Community Foundation, Member of the New State Board of Engineers, Geologists and Land Surveryors.

Our Advisory Panel

To learn the role of the Advisory Panel click here.

Dr. Gina Cuyler


Internal Medicine physician, author, educator and avid patient and community advocate.

Read more…

James Smith


President of Navtivity Preparatory Academy, former executive with the YMCA of Greater Rochester.

Read more…

Jennifer Leonard


Past President/CEO of Rochester Area Community Foundation.

Read more…

John Engels


President, Leadership Coaching, Inc.

John Strazzabosco


Retired High School Math Teacher, author of the book Ninety Feet Under—What poverty does to people, lectures and presentations on poverty, website: Johnstrazzabosco.com

Shawn Brown


Assistant Deputy County Clerk, Monroe County Clerk’s office, former Program Director – Teen Empowerment – Rochester