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what's your story? 

The National Day of Racial Healing was initiated by the Kellogg Foundation in January 2017. To mark the day in Richmond in 2018, we have launched TRHT365, a year round process of collecting and curating short stories of narrative change, relationship building and transformation in RVA.  Selected stories will appear on this website and on social media.  We invite you to share one, two or three stories by responding to the questions below. And then scroll down to begin reading what has been shared by your fellow Richmonders. 

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IofC TRHT-Richmond HIC Council Jan 2017 ©Karen Elliott Greisdorf-0519.jpg

Tonya Gonzalez

Executive Director
Sacred Heart Center

"I first begin with myself by continuously examining my own preconceptions and biases, in order to work through them so that I am in turn, more open to others in an authentic way. This is a process that also includes understanding history and the current systems of oppression that surround us, which is a continual learning process for me. I also do this through my work at the Sacred Heart Center, by working with our team to continuously provide a space where our community feels safe and welcomed, and where families can build community. This is also a constant process that is always in motions. This work is not static."

IofC TRHT-Richmond HIC Council Jan 2017 ©Karen Elliott Greisdorf-0523-2.jpg

Andrew Schoenman

Assistant Professor & Chair, Nonprofit Studies
University of Richmond
 

"I see the need for transformation most clearly in catalyzing a process by which those with white privilege and other forms of privilege can acknowledge the ways they benefit from systems that bear the mark of white supremacy and injustice.  Justice, unlike charity, is a two-way street, and it requires those who derive gains from inequality--of whom I am one--to give things up in the near term in order to create a better world for the long haul.  The first step in this process of release and transformation is to name and recognize what currently exists.  As someone who gets to teach other people how to make a difference, I take it as my duty to start not with "answers" but with a framework of questioning our own assumptions.  This lays the groundwork to free ourselves from prior attachments and ideologies, which then leaves open the space to build connections anew that honor a commitment to justice." 
 

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Kelly Merrill

Consultant and Adjunct Professor,
University of Richmond & Randolph-Macon College

"As a white person living in the Richmond area, I have found that I need to be mindful of the diversity of my professional and social spaces. Just valuing diversity and racial justice is not enough to be trustworthy. To build authentic relationships across racial divides, I've been questioning and reconstructing the spaces where I spend my time. I have changed jobs, volunteered in organizations new to me, and worked actively to convene diverse friends and colleagues across the city. A co-facilitator and I led a dialogue series called Diverse Women's Lives for a group of strangers who became closer through vulnerable conversations. I'm most proud of opportunities that I've found to serve under black visions of leadership." 

IofC TRHT-Richmond HIC Council Jan 2017 ©Karen Elliott Greisdorf-0506-2.jpg

Oscar Contreras

Radio Host

"In the interpersonal relationships between Latinos and Blacks I have noticed much misunderstanding of each other. This has caused friction which in some cases becomes dangerous and divisive. These two communities many times live, work and go to school together yet compete with each other to their own detriment. As a 12 year old coming to this country, I was fed a narrative of fear toward Black people that hurt my ability to assimilate into my new community. I now use my position as a Latino radio host to try to serve as a bridge sharing the history of blacks in Richmond and interpreting cultural differences, listening and giving voice to different perspectives." 

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Rev. Robert G. Hetherington

Former Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church

"A strong personal spirit is necessary to overcome racial, ethnic and economic divisions.  I want to stay connected to God’s power for reconciliation and bridgebuilding. Prayer and spiritual practice give me energy to lean into life’s challenges. These priorities also help me be a better listener to stories which are very different from my own. 

Change is hard. I get comfortable in the old ways. I am also afraid of change. What will happen to me and my world if everyone has a place wt the table? Can I live generously and sacrificially?  I have lived in a world of privilege. Can I empower people at the margins to enjoy the same privileges I enjoy? 

My spirit is divided. I need God’s strength to heal me and to improve my resolve to make a difference in the lives of others, especially those who have not been able to participate because of race, ethnicity or poverty. The work of personal transformation can only be accomplished with God’s help. The prayerful environment of Richmond Hill helps me stay focused for the important work which lies ahead."

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Cathy Woodson

Community Organizer

"There have been significant events, actions and challenges taking place in Richmond and I am in awe of the willingness of people intentionally stepping out of their comfort circles and beginning conversations about what they know and don’t know about Richmond’s history, past and present.  But not just having conversations, but intentionally trying to figure out how to participate in a transformation to build a better community. Recent events that are not so pleasant to discuss or acknowledge have provided opportunities to learn, act and work together to create a region that will embrace the history and create a new history.  I am very hopeful I may have an opportunity to witness a greater transformation."

 

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Becky Lee

Chief Program Officer, YWCA Richmond

"In this political climate, I often have found myself left speechless... something that very few would ever attribute to me. I have felt angered by, and disappointed in, people who have been some part of my life for many years. At first I was routinely caught up in my own emotion and outrage. But in recent months I have found some hope in the number of very real conversations that are starting up. I have heard new voices in these conversations. I’ve seen people who once appeared deeply planted in their opinions beginning to at least recognize the extreme swings playing out publicly. Their lenses slowly becoming more clear. And their hearts are more open to a new narrative. I’m an impatient soul when it comes to offering love instead of fear or anger and there is still so much to be done, but I am finally hopeful that there is a new path ahead. I have also become completely aware that if it had not been for the craziness we have seen we would not be doing all of these amazing things to enrich our lives together as one people."

IofC TRHT-Richmond HIC Council Jan 2017 ©Karen Elliott Greisdorf-0550.jpg

Dr. Joel Blum

Psychiatrist, McGuire Department of Veterans Affairs
Member, 1st Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond

"I'm planning for a Community Forum on the Monument Avenue monuments. This would be part of the Mayor's Commission's efforts to engage the community in the decision making process on what to do with the monuments. My initial idea was for this forum to be co-sponsored by the 1st UU Church of Richmond and a community civic association, but they do not wish to be included as a co-sponsor because of how controversial the topic has been. This confirms for me how important our efforts to promote racial healing in this community are."

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Don King 

Partner, McGuireWoods LLP
Board of Directors, American Civil War Museum

"My law firm just elected a new chairman, who is African American.  Jon Harmon is a West Point graduate and one of the nation’s top litigators.  Forty-two years ago, when I joined McGuireWoods, none of the big Richmond firms had any African American lawyers, except McGuireWoods, which had one.  Since then, as McGuireWoods has grown (it now has over 1000 lawyers), the number of talented diverse lawyers has increased significantly.  The diversity of the people who hire the firm has increased as well.  The City of Richmond has changed along with the firm.  One example is the American Civil War Museum, which presents the Civil War from multiple perspectives: Confederate, Union, African American, military and civilian.  Authentic stories told from all sides heal, strengthen and guide us for a shared future.  The Museum’s new state-of-the-art facility by the river will use this approach to help lead the nation’s post-Charlottesville healing process.  So too will the Museum’s leadership in resolving the future of Monument Avenue."