Online events open dialogue about racism, how to address it for ‘National Day of Racial Healing’

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CHICAGO — The reckoning over racial justice following the killing of George Floyd sparked protests and pleas for America to start honestly saying what it was seeing.

But racism can be an uncomfortable topic to tackle, while the conversations are even harder to have during a pandemic.

Following one of the most famous teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about the “fierce urgency of now,” one group found a creative way to work towards racial healing while so many are stuck at home. 

Chicago-based “Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation” (TRHT) will host a digital discussion for tomorrow’s “National Day of Racial Healing.” 

“What we’re trying to do is reignite the conversation,”  Pilar Audain said. “Our young people have taken a terrible hit, so we are excited and happy to give them a platform to talk about their goals and passions and the work that they’re doing.”

More than 600 Chicagoans will gather online to participate in what the group calls “racial healing circles” that will shape the discourse.

According to TRHT Director Jose Rico, the exercise is about transforming views on race with personal stories.  

“People who don’t think they have anything in common with each other share and experience where they were either harmed or showed some resilience and courage to connect with people that again may seem different on the outside but then realize they have common experiences,” Rico said.

The issues have become even more urgent as the protest movement against police brutality continues to seek lasting reform and the pandemic exposes racial inequality in access to health care.  

TRHT is just one group participating in the 5th annual National Day of Racial Healing, with the focus this year being on the work young activists have done to repair harm caused by systemic racism.  

Among them is 20-year-old activist Jermaine Wright, who says it’s important to see Black people outside of news stories about crime, injustice, poverty and pain.

“A lot of folks tend to not know what’s going, or to be oblivious,” Wright said. “It was a lot of brutality that we got to see and we didn’t get to see a lot of joy, so I think [it brings] Black joy and brown joy into one space.”

Southwest Side activist Luis Cabrales said he hopes that in seriously dealing with race, inequality and injustice, his generation will one day end the struggle for civil rights.  

“Some might say there’s no hope for young people in Chicago, but this is a whole new take on protesting,” Cabrales said. “We’re doing all of this work, so the generations beyond us don’t have to do this work.”

Tomorrow’s virtual event hosted by TRHT has gained such interest that all 600 slots are filled and there’s a waitlist of 200 people who want to participate.

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