Storytelling: a tool for racial healing and mending bonds
A night full of food, merriment, and most of all storytelling.
Chicagoans gathered at the National Museum of Mexican Art on Jan. 22 to celebrate the National Day of Racial Healing, an event conceived by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation initiative. Formulated in 2016 through a cooperative endeavor, TRHT is a “national community-based process of transformative, sustainable change, addressing the historic and contemporary effects of racism.” The National Day of Racial Healing was created with the intention to not only appreciate the differences of Chicago’s well-defined communities but to recognize the social and economic inequities.
“[By] addressing the historic and contemporary effects of racism... the mission of TRHT is to eliminate a false belief and a hierarchy of human value—which is just a very fancy way of saying racism,” said Jaye Hobart, the grants and project manager at Woods Fund Chicago. It's all about the transformation to a time where -- you know-- individual outcomes are not being determined by race and appearance These are also the names of all the working groups that spent the past year developing a vision and goals to build TRHT within the Chicago community. The participants who responded to the open call engaged in a nine-week workshop on storytelling with Goodman Theatre that focused on the basis of celebrating the National Day of Racial Healing. “From there, it evolved into other prompts of sharing an experience in which they felt greatly impacted through a racialized interaction,” Hobart said.
The festivities began with many thank-yous to the group of women who spent weeks gathering (with who they once considered strangers) to discuss their personal struggles and triumphs of racial inequity in America. They were all women of color whose stories were incredibly diverse: sharing narratives of their pasts, of their loved ones, and of their fondest and most difficult memories with the crowd of people who filled the auditorium of the Pilsen museum.
“When people say there is no racism, it is because they don't understand,” said storyteller Cecilia A. Mowatt, who became a part of the Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation initiative nearly three years ago. Mowatt, who’s the president of her own strategies consulting firm, specializes in “inclusive economic development” and was eager to join TRHT Greater Chicago. “I think the mission [of the event & workshop] was to get people to realize that for us to have racial healing — first up — we need to tell the truth, and then to [identify] what needs to be healed and understand what it is that is racial about it.”
Kellogg spent years financing what is now called “racial healing work” under the surname “America Healing” before they came to develop what is referred to as the process of TRHT. This initiative involved hundreds of people across the United States, leading to a national team launch summit at the end of 2016.
“Kellogg believed that reconciliation should not be used within the dialogue of TRHT because that would acknowledge that we were never together in one point of history” Hobart explained, that although the effect of racism are evident, the importance togetherness is what Kellogg intends to emphasize. “It's all about the transformation to a time where -- you know-- individual outcomes are not being determined by race and appearance.”