Over the course of the late civil rights hero Rosa Parks’ life, she often was asked why she refused to give up her seat on that Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955.
In her usual soft-spoken and understated manner, she would softly reply that she was tired of being humiliated and disrespected and decided to take a stand – by remaining in her seat.
Most people remember that answer. However, less well known is that Parks would often add that she also did it “for the children.”
Childless herself, but having served as a youth director for the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), she was very much aware and distraught by the murder of 15-year-old Emmett Till that summer. And in March of that year, a local 15-year-old high school girl named Claudette Colvin was assaulted and arrested on a city bus after she refused to give up her seat while taking a similar stand against segregation.
Much has certainly changed in the 62 years since Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat. However, we still are a nation very much in need of healing, justice and racial equity.
That is why we are kicking our new year off with a call for a National Day of Racial Healing on Jan. 17.
It is a response to the broad call for healing following recent contentious rhetoric and hate crimes that have continued to divide our country. Both President Obama and President-elect Trump, as well as 32 states, have called on the country to heal.
Our hope is that on Jan. 17, activities by community, civic, government and corporate leaders will spur efforts to heal the wounds created by racial, ethnic and religious bias and build an equitable and just society so that all children can thrive.
This program is consistent with the Kellogg Foundation’s long standing commitment to racial equity, diversity and inclusion. This core value was reaffirmed by our board of trustees’ public commitment in 2007 to being “an anti-racist organization that promotes racial equity.” And it was expressed more explicitly in 2010, when the foundation launched the America Healing initiative with a $75 million commitment to expose structural inequities in communities, address them and help communities heal from the effects of racism.
The National Day of Racial Healing is a component of our new Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) enterprise. It is a comprehensive effort, implemented community-by-community, to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change, addressing the historic and contemporary effects of racism.
With the national shifting of our social and economic landscape, we as individuals and institutions must remain committed to racial justice with the same audacity as Rosa Parks.
We must never accept as normal, the thwarting of dreams and the human potential of innocent children simply because they were born a different color or into a family without money or status.
We must not be intimidated or disheartened by change. Our foundation has been around for nearly 90 years and has continued to thrive and be highly effective amid a myriad of societal contexts, precisely because of our core values and our mission.
Like Rosa Parks, our cause is right. Our values are correct and we have a steely determination to see the children of our country thrive. And that begins with the active pursuit of racial equity – by embracing healing efforts and working to eradicate structural racism.
I hope you’ll consider participating in the National Day of Racial Healing and ask that you visit www.dayofracialhealing.com to learn more about all of the civic activities you and your organization can do on Jan. 17.
Additionally, I encourage you to join the conversation socially using the hashtags #TheDayToHeal, #DayOfRacialHealing or #TRHT (Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation), and encourage others to do the same. I also encourage you to create a short video addressing why racial healing is important to you and post it on YouTube. Or share a selfie with a sign “I SUPPORT THE NATIONAL DAY OF RACIAL HEALING on JANUARY 17, 2017.” Additionally, if you are planning an event or activity, please share it with us by emailing it to email@example.com.
Thank you for helping change the course of history. Our children’s future depends on us.