Letter of Gratitude to TRHT Chicago Community

Letter of Gratitude to TRHT Chicago Community

Dear TRHT Chicago Community,

With a heart full of gratitude, I share the news that my season as the Executive Director of TRHT Chicago has concluded. The journey we’ve shared has been nothing short of miraculous, and I want to express my deepest thanks to each and every one of you who has committed to healing yourself and who have helped others in our city heal.

Now is my time to reflect and rest. I am reminded of the blessings and dreams passed down through my Abuelas, shaping us into the healers we are today. Our ancestors, in their wisdom, guided us to this work and nurtured a space for us to come together. In this community, we have remembered the true essence of who we are – healers healing on a shared path of love, transformation, and joy!

It has been an incredible journey that started in 2019, when I was hired as the inaugural executive director, with 1 year of funding and less than 10 practitioners. Over the last four and a half years, we have achieved remarkable milestones – touching the hearts and minds of almost ten thousand people, empowering over four hundred racial healing practitioners, and mobilizing over four million dollars while increasing the endowment to almost $1.5M. All in service to strengthen our community’s capacity for racial healing and transformation. The impact we’ve made is evident in the spaces we’ve created for repair, restoration, and transformation by individuals, communities, and organizations.

The vision I shared with the leadership advisory council of TRHT, was that we will be successful when we bring together healers, curanderas, racial equity practitioners, storytellers, circle keepers, everyone that have been healing in our hoods for years and create the space to come together and increase our collective capacity for transformation using Dr. Gail Christopher’s teachings. Our first gathering in the winter of 2019, was the first step of bringing over 100 hood and professional healers together. The TRHT framework provided us with a strategy to go deeper into a healing and equity practice and connect TRHT with existing efforts in our communities. It also made it possible to identify similar efforts across communities and sectors, birthing the Solidarity Circles and Truth, Healing and Equity Fellowship and Racial Healing Certification program at City Colleges of Chicago.

You, each one of you, are the vessels of this movement, and I am forever grateful for the love, peace, and purpose you gave me and our TRHT community. The friendships, love, solidaruty and weight we lifted from thousands of people during the lethal and isolating pandemic was life changing. Your commitment to being there for others and providing space for us to grieve the murders of our people was heroic. We answered the call of BIPOC employees in organizations that were sometimes toxic and created affinity spaces where ones did not exist. Oftentimes this created a bond between people that exists to this day. Our ability to respond, to hold space and to build as our community was under racist attacks deserves recognition. It will be a testament to what we know- that we are made for these times. I am confident that our bond will endure, and together we will continue to build, love, and find joy in a world that challenges us to conform to hierarchies, be silent, and forget our true selves.

I cannot express this enough, I extend my deepest appreciation for the profound impact you have had on my life and the lives of countless others. Let us carry forward the torch of love, trust, and healing that Dr. Gail Christopher entrusted us into the next chapter of our journey. It’s up to us, the hundreds of racial healing practitioners, to continue our practice of storytelling, sharing a future without hierarchies and binaries, of not accepting business as usual and expanding our circle of trust building. No one knows that better than we do, that this is where the magic happens. Our capacity to heal and transform is only as strong as its practitioners, their leadership, and their practice. This is an opportunity to deepen and strengthen our work. I leave proud, grateful, and blessed.

My next step is to take my son, Tizoc, to a healing retreat in our motherland and continue to teach him my practices. I’m looking forward to the next cycle of our journey together upon my return as a healing practitioner, friend, and co-conspirator. If you would like to stay in community with me, please fill this out and I will send you updates. I am ready to step firmly into what I know is my destiny. Together, we will continue to build our collective work that has allowed us to reshape the narrative of healing and solidarity in Chicago.

With love and gratitude,
Jose A. Rico
Founding Executive Director TRHT Chicago

Jose Rico on Community Partnership & Co Creation

Jose Rico on Community Partnership & Co Creation

The Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s Chicago Prize 2022 invests in community leadership and community-led plans to create economic opportunity on Chicago’s South and West Sides. This video is part of our “Practitioner Perspectives” series for Chicago Prize 2022.

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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Chicago, racism is hurting us all

Chicago, racism is hurting us all

by José Rico and Pilar Audair-Reed of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Greater Chicago.

Chicago is overdue for a reckoning on racism.

The rallying cries affirming that Black Lives Matter have caused incredible changes to our public discourse about race. The specter of racial injustice has plagued our city long before the brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery made headlines worldwide and spurred a wave of resistance throughout the nation. Leaders in government, business, and civic life are now making new calls to eliminate systemic racism. Our response to these calls for action must meet the moment, and move beyond statements and diversity training to substantially improve the quality of life for Black and Brown Chicagoans. 

As a city, we must gather together, representing the full range of diversity Chicago has to offer, and engage in a process of reconciliation—one that aligns on principles of solidarity as it relates to policing, health and wellness, and neighborhood investments. We must also come together to repair our relationship, tell our truths, and unite in our shared aspirations. And white people should indeed join, and come with open hearts, open wallets, and a commitment to following the leadership of people who have long existed under the heel of racism and poverty. 

These principles of solidarity operate with the necessary awareness that the freedoms of Black and Brown Chicagoans are bound together, even as racial injustice affects each community in unique ways; we cannot achieve equity while we are being killed by police or criminalized and separated from our families. 

One principle of solidarity for Black and Brown Chicagoans is that we are overpoliced and underprotected.

Black Chicagoans have faced the disproportionate brunt of police brutality, a byproduct of neighborhood disinvestment and school closures with subsequent increases in the Chicago Police Department’s budget. This has resulted in Black people being overpoliced and underprotected, while Brown Chicagoans have been forced to contend with the terror and surveillance of a police database that has facilitated racist enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For many years, community activists have called for the elimination of the police database because it was used to target Black people and justify their harassment and arrest. That same database has also been used by ICE to target immigrants and their neighbors for “snatch-and-grab” operations, often waiting for people as they drop off their children at school or are returning from work. Where police officers have literally kept their foot on the necks of Black Chicagoans, ICE officers have ripped Brown families apart, deporting people and spreading fear, directed by an anti-Mexican regime in Washington that promotes locking children in cages to deter immigration. 

Policing in its current form has not served and protected people who just need direct assistance for everyday, human needs. Instead, the funding to provide those supports has been usurped by bloated police budgets. The adequate funding of mental-health clinics, trauma-informed crisis intervention, school counselors, and community centers has instead been dedicated to law enforcement, with the presumption that policing is the answer. We must bear in mind that budgets are moral documents. New York and Los Angeles have committed to redirecting police funding to support those services, leaving Chicago as the largest city to not examine its policing budget. We must link racial equity with reallocating policing dollars toward the adequate funding of public schools and essential human services in Black and Brown neighborhoods, in addition to citizen oversight of law enforcement.

We must also heed the cries of communities that are suffering from environmental racism and uneven access to quality health care. The air is filled with ambulance sirens and Hilco demolition dust, adding insult to the injury of a pandemic that takes a toll on the lungs. Neighborhoods like Little Village and Roseland have been hearing the constant ring of ambulance sirens since March. We now know the tragic reality that the coronavirus pandemic has hit Black and Brown Chicagoans hardest, a direct product of racial disparities not in access to health care, but in providing early, affordable, and direct health services to people with underlying conditions before COVID-19. Ailing people go to area hospitals when they become really sick, causing financial stress to community hospitals in Black and Brown communities that are already underresourced to treat the most sick people.This has caused hospitals like St. Anthony and Roseland to lose staff and face budget disasters, even though they have few beds to spare. 

This calls for a principle of solidarity to value and provide health care for our most vulnerable residents. We need to pass legislation that strengthens hospital community benefit requirements by mandating that money be allocated to the direct provision of care and activities impacting social determinants of health. In addition, we must commit to instituting a health equity fund, which would require hospitals that don’t meet benefit requirements to contribute the difference to public health clinics in medically disadvantaged areas, to ensure meaningful connection to health services for people in all neighborhoods.

For every neighborhood to truly be part of an equitable Chicago, we must ensure that residents from every part of town have free and equitable access to the institutions, opportunities, resources, and amenities that are concentrated in certain pockets of our city. Given the role that the business community plays in providing access, resources, and opportunities in our city, they must become part of the solution rather than continue to engage in policies and practices that perpetuate inequity in order to increase their bottom line. We must invest in our neighborhoods just so we can provide a home for everyone. A recent report from the Urban Institute found that majority-white neighborhoods receive 4.6 times more private-market investment per household than majority-Black neighborhoods and 2.6 times more private-market investment than majority-Latino neighborhoods at the median. Banks should redirect investments to neighborhoods in the Invest South-West Program, which was created by the mayor last December to place $750 million worth of public investments into ten Chicago neighborhoods on the south and west sides, with a call to action for banks to match what’s allocated. We need private investors to allocate $4 of investment in a Black or Brown neighborhood for every $1 of investment in a white neighborhood, to offset for decades of wealth being usurped from the finance community by predatory financial practices. This seems like a lot of money, but still does not offset the public funds that corporations have received in the form of tax breaks, TIF dollars, contracts, and acquisitions that have been doled out over the years. 

There cannot be true economic and social recovery from the impact of COVID-19 and systemic racism without a reconciliation process that involves white people acknowledging and relinquishing disparate power and privilege, and where Black and Brown people overcome divisions to achieve shared policy outcomes and to practice mutual cooperation that builds community sustainability. The moment calls for commitments that are large enough in scope to address the suffering that almost two million Chicagoans face every day. The moment calls for leaders with courage who can lead with their hearts.

When people build solidarity across their differences, face hard truths, and set bold goals, we can solve our most pressing problems and transform lives. Chicago has an opportunity to take the lead, and in doing so, we can set an example for the rest of the nation to follow.

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