U.S. Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Funders’ Briefing Program

U.S. Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Funders’ Briefing Program

Panel on Local Insights

Moderator: La Quen Náay Liz Medicine Crow

Participants: José A. Rico, Tia Brown McNair, Angela Waters Austin, and Charles Chavis

Ms. Liz Medicine Crow: Gunalchéesh (“Thank you” in Tlingit)! How are you? Thank you so much. Good morning, everyone. In my Tlingit language, we say: Yak’éi Ts’ootaat! Good morning! In my Haida language, we say: Sángaay láagang, good day. I am Tlingit and Haida, and I come from the community of Keex Kwaan (Kake), which is in the heart of southeast Alaska, in the heart of the Tongass National Rainforest. And I am so honored to be able to spend a few moments with you today. But I am really here to introduce to you some incredible leaders, and I want to get right to it. I would like to introduce José Rico, who is executive director for the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Greater Chicago. José brings the concept of solidarity between Black and Brown and all communities to life in Chicago as they partner to implement the TRHT strategy. I would also like to introduce Dr. Tia Brown McNair, vice president in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success and the executive director for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Centers at the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) in Washington, DC. Tia is the driving force helping to creatively actualize the vision for transformation and racial healing on college campuses across America. I would also love to introduce to you one of my fellow place leads—and I am so excited that I get to see her and hear her today—Angela Waters Austin, who is the president and chief executive officer of One Love Global, and the founder, producer, and host of Equity Equals radio show across Michigan. Angela embodies the idea of success against the odds in implementing a comprehensive TRHT strategy in the capital city of Lansing, Michigan. And of course, Dr. Charles Chavis, cochair of USTRHT, vice-chair of the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, assistant professor at George Mason University. Charles is the local leader in Maryland and here at George Mason University. He is courageously combining academic excellence with community organizing to bring truth about historic lynching to the work of racial healing and achieving justice. And more about them are in your briefing program, but I just wanted to warmly welcome all the panelists to our first panel, which is really focusing on local insights. The question that I have for our panelists to get us going is: What has changed as a result of this work? How do you know this? And what does it mean for your community?

Mr. Rico: Thank you, Liz. Three years ago, when we started this work here in Chicago, we convened dozens of community-based organizations to help us design how this was going to look here in the city, and we got a good response from several hundred leaders. We trained about 40 racial healing practitioners; came up with a plan of how we wanted to make the changes in policy, in the economy, in some of the racial justice reform efforts that were very important for us here in Chicago; and we started doing about 30 circles per year to get people to understand the methodology but also what our transformation agenda would be. We were on a really good path: the metropolitan area is about eight million people, and hundreds of institutions were doing this work, so we got a good start. Now, what you see is that we see the four different sectors in our community really have adopted the TRHT framework in our city. We have hundreds and thousands, hundreds of community-based organizations throughout the city that are being part of the racial healing circles. We have thousands of individuals who this year, even though the pandemic was on, virtually participated in racial healing circles. Today, we have—a thousand people logged on the National Day of Racial Healing from 10 am to 3 pm. And the only reason we could only do a thousand is because we have 200 racial healing practitioners doing live circles as we speak. We have the government sector, both the state launch, the multimillion-dollar Solidarity Heals program so people in all Illinois could be part of the TRHT framework, and the city also just launched—and next week is doing—a public policy conference called “Together We Heal” using the TRHT framework. I was in a panel presentation with Dr. Gail Christopher yesterday with 200 businesses here in Chicago that the United Way sponsored, and earlier today I was in another panel presentation with the Chicago Community Trust where the business community wants to raise $500 million on the Together We Rise corporate initiative to implement the transformation and the repair that is needed from the harm that an economy based on suffering has caused. So we have come a long way. People at this moment in time see the framework as something that is viable, and in a big city like Chicago, different places are implementing different parts of the framework, and I am really excited about how we bring it all together in a cohesively unified front.

Dr. McNair: Thank you. Good morning, everyone. I just want to say thank you to the planning committee and to the leadership of Dr. Gail Christopher who I admire so much for the visionary work that she is doing on the TRHT effort. I just want to say for us at AAC&U—and that is the Association of American Colleges & Universities—we know that change cannot be sustained without intentionality and accountability, and for us at AAC&U, we believe that lasting change is very focused and a priority for our students, the next generation of leaders, to be prepared, to be fully prepared, to be the strategic leaders and thinkers to dismantle the false belief in a hierarchy of human value, to build just and equitable communities. And that is our goal of the TRHT Campus Centers is to really work collaboratively with faculty, administrators, community partners, students, and community activists, to really focus on what it means to have just and equitable communities. And along with our President, Lynn Pasquerella, and myself, we are honored to serve as part of the design team for the national TRHT effort. And in 2017, AAC&U partnered with the very first Penn TRHT campus—and Liz, you were there, and thank you so much for being there, part of that effort. And we are working with them on visionary goals, but also action plans, comprehensive action plans, focused on the work that they need to do within the institution and in the communities to achieve our shared goals. We often say that TRHT, the work of TRHT does not replace existing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at campuses, but it makes a deep connection with what we value at AAC&U as part of being liberally educated, that we are speaking across differences, the civility that we do not see as often as we need to within our country, the healing, the deep listening, the empathy, and the action. We now have over 28—we have 28 partner institutions working with us; that reaches hundreds and thousands of institutions across this country. And we are working with them to build—we have the centers. We have TRHT Campus Center institutes every year in June, where they come together. We have had over 108 institutions participate in that. Over 400 practitioners have been prepared to facilitate our racial healing circles. And what we are also doing is we have partnerships with our national evaluators at the summer institute who develop comprehensive assessment and evaluation plans, because as you have already heard from my colleagues this morning, we have to be focused on action, we have to be focused on accountability, and we have to be focused on change. So, I just want to say that we are developing resources and tools, as I close out. We are developing resources and tools with our higher education partners on stages of implementation: campus, client, and assessment tools based on the TRHT framework. All of our campuses are developing strategies for examining narrative about TRHT within their communities and at their institutions. So, we are very excited about this work, we are excited to be in partnership, we know that it is necessary, and we believe that it is important for change to happen. Thank you.

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