By: Isaiah M. Oliver, President and CEO
From the comfort of my office in downtown Flint, I watched a 46-year-old black man die on my laptop. In the days following I was overcome with sadness, shock, and fear. I wept in a staff meeting. For the first time.
One year ago today, May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, MN. We all witnessed what happened. It was not our country’s finest moment, rather an inflection point that propelled protests and meaningful conversations on race.
Healing conversations based on love and our common humanity have been happening in Flint and Genesee County since 2018. Partnership best describes the way the Community Foundation of Greater Flint’s (CFGF) racial healing framework, Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT), is evolving locally. Through partnerships, racial healing is progressing in many spaces in a unique and organic way.
Think of TRHT as a toolkit for change. Narrative change that jettisons the belief in a hierarchy of human value. It is a journey together, not forced. A pathway for our community to transform beliefs and systems that perpetuate structural racism.
Flint Police Chief Terrance Green embraced the concept of healing conversations earlier this year. Healing circles were held among Flint police officers and leadership. This activity lets individuals tell their unique stories and create a common bond. Circles are a first step in the healing process.
Healing practitioners are trained in healing circle facilitation and the TRHT framework. These individuals bring a spirit of love and common humanity to the work. We are fortunate to have strong partnerships with local healing practitioners Elizabeth Jordan, Patrick McNeal, Carma Lewis, Mona Monroe Younis, Bob Brown, Aurora Saucedo, Ralph Arellano, and Asa Ascencio Zuccaro.
The City of Flint planning department partnered with CFGF in their Choice Neighborhoods Work under the direction of Suzanne Wilcox. Healing circles and community building work is happening under the direction of the city’s neighborhood planner, Mona Munroe Younis.
In partnership with the University of Michigan-Flint’s Leyla Sanker and Sloan Museum’s Jerome Threlkeld we are unearthing authentic narratives about Flint’s indigenous roots. Land acknowledgments are happening at community events. The history of certain Flint neighborhoods such as St. John and Floral Park tells yet another story.
The Flint & Genesee Group hosted their annual meeting recently and the keynote speaker focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. A DEI workshop series is scheduled for more learning opportunities. Executive Director Tim Herman has worked to promote equity among black businesses who have been hit hard during the pandemic.
Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Genesee County Commissioners, and the Genesee County Health Department have declared racism as a public health issue. Dr. Kent Key, a member of the Community Foundation’s Taskforce on Racial Inequities, led the effort. He is now raising funds for community engagement and policy research on the issue.
The Faith Subcommittee of the Racial Inequities Taskforce, comprised of local leaders and pastors, have focused on the equitable distribution of Covid-19 testing, vaccines, and access to information. Free rides to vaccines and establishing three vaccine clinics at local churches are but two examples. Their work has gained statewide attention under the leadership of Pastor Monica Villareal.
Courageous Conversations were hosted by Community Roots under the leadership of Patrick McNeal, Todd Womack, Sylvester Jones, and Willie Smith at community parks last summer. The partnership continues for future community dialogues.
Donors have also embraced the work, helping CFGF reach its endowment match goal of $350,000, establishing the TRHT Fund to support grants for the journey. Our partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation propelled TRHT here and the timing was prophetic as our country wrestles with racial injustice.
My heart is hopeful that TRHT will weave a thread of racial healing in our community. With a loving heart and in memory of George Floyd, I invite you to partner with us in this together journey.
Learn more about our Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation work at cfgf.org.