Kathy Reincke: 269.274.5445
Michael K. Frisby: 202.625.4328
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – The W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched its next step in pursuit of racial equity for the nation, an unprecedented Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) enterprise that will help communities embrace racial healing and uproot conscious and unconscious beliefs in the hierarchy of human value. Over the last nine years, the nation’s sixth largest private foundation invested more than $200 million in organizations working to heal racial divides and eradicate structural bias in their communities.
Already, more than 70 diverse organizations and individuals ranging from the National Civic League to the YWCA USA to the National Congress of American Indians are partners in the TRHT process. This broad coalition seeks to move the nation beyond dialogues about race and ethnicity to unearthing historic and contemporary patterns that are barriers to success, healing those wounds and creating opportunities for all children.
“Our nation looks at far too many people as deficits, instead of assets,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, WKKF’s president and CEO. “Entrenched beliefs create an uneven disbursement of opportunities that give advantages when it comes to jobs, education, housing, civic participation and health. TRHT follows a proven and structured process for implementing change that can allow all children to matter and have opportunities to succeed.”
Through its work with the America Healing initiative, WKKF has supported approximately 1,000 national and community organizations representing Native American, African American, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Arab American and white communities, which want to jettison the antiquated belief in the hierarchy of human value that limits the even distribution of opportunities throughout the nation.
The TRHT process will adapt some practices and learnings of previous Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC), which have been instrumental in resolving deeply rooted conflicts around the world, and apply them in the United States for a national, comprehensive enterprise to resolve the consequences of centuries of racism and structural inequities. By uncovering human rights violations and tragedies, and engaging populations in a healing process, TRCs have historically restored dignity and respect on many occasions, paving the way for the transforming of societies – a prevailing objective of the U.S. effort.
WKKF believes the stage is set for this pioneering enterprise. The repeated police and civilian killings of unarmed people of color, well-documented bias within our education, health, civic and justice systems, and escalating divisive rhetoric over religious and ethnic intolerance and immigration policies have created an environment where race and ethnicity are driving our national discourse and fueling anxiety and fear in our communities.
In conjunction with WKKF, the Northeastern University School of Journalism today released an analysis of recent polling data showing that public opinion among whites in the U.S. has shifted significantly, with polling data underscoring that a large segment of the public is ready for a comprehensive initiative on racism, such as the TRHT.
Jonathan Kaufman, director of the Northeastern University School of Journalism, a TRHT partner, recalled the optimism after President Obama was elected in 2008, saying there was hope the election marked a turning point in race relations. “But you don’t unwind centuries of pain on one election night,” he said. “What makes TRHT so promising is that many Americans have acknowledged there are race-related problems. The hope is to use the TRHT for earnest discussions on these issues and for finding solutions that will help to heal communities.”
Specifically, the TRHT enterprise will prioritize inclusive, community-based healing activities and policy design that seek to change collective community narratives and broaden the understanding that Americans have for their diverse experiences. TRHT will assemble national and local commissions that will hold public meetings on the consequences of racial inequity and work toward mobilizing systems and structures to create more equitable opportunities. Together, civic, religious, philanthropic, corporate, civic rights and government leaders will create ways to hold the nation and communities accountable and monitor progress.
The TRHT enterprise will be led by Dr. Gail C. Christopher, who will become vice president of TRHT, and remain a senior advisor to the foundation. “Dr. Christopher has provided leadership and expertise on health and well-being, racial healing and racial equity in designing and guiding America Healing,” Tabron said. “It was Gail’s vision that a TRHT process could be the next step to help America heal the wounds of the past, and move forward in expanding racial equity. She is the right person to lead at this unprecedented moment in time when the foundation is launching this groundbreaking effort.”
Christopher said that racial hierarchy plays a central role in social, economic and government policies, and that an effective Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation process can lead to sustainable change. “Until we change the consciousness of this nation to one that embraces all of humanity as having equal worth and all of our children as deserving of equal opportunity, our democratic ideals will not be realized,” she said.
One component of the TRHT enterprise is a multi-faceted media campaign – “Remix the Narrative” – that premiers today and will help counter negative perceptions of people of color and various religious and ethnic groups. The campaign will provide a platform for inviting and empowering individuals, especially youths and young adults, to amplify their own stories through their own voices. Watch the video at www.remixthenarrative.org and engage by remixing your own narrative.
Former Mississippi Gov. William Winter and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick are honorary co-chairs of the national TRHT Commission. The partners, including legendary TV producer Norman Lear, the Schultz Family Foundation and National League of Cities, are working with WKKF to shape TRHT’s activities. “We will continue to invite and accept new partners, as we build a powerful coalition to transform this nation,” Christopher said.
Ramón Murguía, chairman of the WKKF Board of Trustees, cited the importance of having influential media figures such as Lear join the TRHT enterprise. “It is critically important to have influentials engaged in the TRHT work. Just as it is important that people of color are energized to lead and participate. There are thousands of untold stories in communities of color that must be shared to shape authentic perceptions of our lives.”
The National Civic League, which annually presents an All-American City Award for civic innovation, will make TRHT a centerpiece of the 2016 and 2017 All-America City Awards and leverage its Model City Charter and Civic Index materials to support TRHT efforts.
“We welcomed the partnership and support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative which now engages nearly 40 corporations in helping young people overcome so many barriers to opportunity, to literally ‘beat the odds’ in their communities,” said Daniel Pitasky, executive director of the Schultz Family Foundation. “We also applaud the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their pioneering and steadfast leadership on the deep issues of racial healing and racial equity and look forward to exploring ways to deepen our organizational partnerships to help ‘change the odds’ for so many young people facing racial and economic barriers.”
Over the last 30 years, WKKF has worked to end racial bias, and in 2007 the board of trustees publically declared it was an antiracist organization that promotes racial equity.
“The TRHT is our call to action,” Tabron said. “To get results, to keep moving toward equality, our ranks must swell with those committed to racial progress, committed to blocking efforts to limit voting by people of color, committed to ending racial disparities in school discipline, committed to quality education for all, committed to jobs for residents of underserved communities, committed to restoring fairness in our justice system, committed to ending segregated housing patterns, committed to promoting health equity and committed to providing opportunities for all of our nation’s children.”
Organizations and individual partners supporting the TRHT enterprise are available here.
The Northeastern University School of Journalism polling analysis report is available here.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. Visit www.wkkf.org.