When people talk about closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap, conversations tend to focus on reforming discriminatory policies and systems, as well as increasing investments in Black and Latinx communities. But there is another crucial part of that journey: acknowledging the mental and emotional toll created by racism. To transform our communities into places where equity, opportunity, and prosperity are within reach for all residents, it is also important that we make space to listen to, absorb, and honor people’s experiences and feelings.
January 17, 2023, will mark the seventh annual National Day of Racial Healing, an occasion uniting people, organizations, and communities to call for racial healing and take action to seek a more just and equitable world. It is observed on the Tuesday following Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“The National Day for Racial Healing is designed for us to come together and celebrate our shared humanity,” said José Rico, Director for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) of Greater Chicago.
National Day of Racial Healing was created alongside TRHT, a national initiative launched by Dr. Gail Christopher at the Kellogg Foundation that connects systemic transformation with racial healing. Through candid conversations known as racial healing circles, TRHT seeks to address the impact of racism—past and present. Since 2021, TRHT of Greater Chicago has been a collaborative partner housed at the Trust.
This year, TRHT of Greater Chicago will host an in-person event at the Promontory in Hyde Park that will bring together partners and stakeholders to commemorate the day, including community leaders, officials from the City of Chicago, and over 100 youth. The celebration will include performances by Black and Latinx spoken-word artists and musicians and remarks from Trust President and CEO Andrea Sáenz and the City of Chicago’s Chief Equity Officer, Candace Moore. Attendees will be encouraged to sign up for healing circles.
The one-day event will also serve as a kickoff for the Year of Transformation Through Solidarity, work spearheaded by TRHT of Greater Chicago to unify Black and Latinx communities that have faced decades of disinvestment, as well as the more recent economic devastation caused by COVID-19. The goal is to inspire both communities to become more civically engaged and longer-term, collaborate on grassroots efforts that lead to systemic change.
“During the pandemic, we saw the great harm that institutional racism causes Black and Brown communities and continues to separate us from resources and each other,” said Rico. “The root cause of this separation is the discriminatory belief of a hierarchy of human value that undergirds policies and practices that drive inequity.”
For individuals interested in participating in the National Day of Racial Healing, TRHT provides a list of various activities on its website. Using their conversation guide, you can host a conversation with friends and family—in-person or virtual. Additionally, there are toolkits available for how to engage young people, policymakers, and in professional settings. If you are not ready to join a conversation or healing circle, you can watch the National Day of Racial Healing town halls streamed on MSNBC and Noticias Telemundo. You can also watch the digital series Changing the Narrative about the origins of racial healing and the ongoing work required to achieve racial equity.
According to Pilar Audain, Associate Director at TRHT of Greater Chicago, these activities can ladder into a longer-term commitment to racial healing. She notes that you can keep the conversation going after January 17 by signing up for an ongoing healing circle group, or even starting your own. You can also donate money to or volunteer at organizations that address issues pertinent in communities of color. Additionally, she underscores the importance of partaking in self-care practices like meditation because the process of racial healing is often emotionally daunting.
Ultimately, she says to start from a place that is meaningful to you.
“I try less to say what exactly they should do, but that they should do something. Find something that interests you and get involved,” Audain said.