WITF’s fifteenth virtual community conversation in the “Toward Racial Justice” series will feature host Charles Ellison of WURD and guest panelists Sharia Benn of Sankofa African American Theatre Company, Jonathan Feinberg of National Police Accountability Project, Stephanie Jirard of Shippensburg University, Joanna McClinton, PA House Minority Leader and Mark Rhodes of Key Learning Consultants.
[HARRISBURG, PA] – WITF, the PBS and NPR member station for Central Pennsylvania, announced today that its Toward Racial Justice community conversation series returns this Thursday.
In June 2020, in the wake of the death of George Floyd, WITF offered a safe place to bring together underrepresented voices. With a committee of community co-organizers, WITF launched the “Toward Racial Justice” initiative, a bi-weekly series of virtual community conversations addressing systemic racism and injustice in Central Pennsylvania and beyond. Each episode featured host Charles Ellison, the executive producer & host of “Reality Check” on WURD in Philadelphia, the only Black-owned talk radio station in Pennsylvania. Ellison led discussions with expert panelists on a specific aspect of life that was affected by systemic racism, covering topics such as juvenile justice, education, health disparities, and how to be an ally. Audiences engaged the panelists and each other by asking questions via the chat window.
“We are serving as a catalyst for change by bringing people together to discuss solutions and inspire collective action,” said Heather Woolridge, WITF’s director of community engagement. “At first, we committed to presenting six conversations over twelve weeks. But WITF recognized that there is much more work to be done; the next discussion will be number 15. We will host the Toward Racial Justice series on our YouTube channel every two weeks for the foreseeable future.”
A dedicated group of volunteer community co-organizers helps WITF staff plan each discussion. Thursday’s event invites three of them to reflect on goals for the series in 2021: Sharia Benn, president and executive artistic director of Sankofa African American Theatre Company; Mark Rhodes, owner of Key Learning Consultants and a commissioner with the City of York Human Relations Commission; and Stephanie A. Jirard, chief diversity officer and professor of Criminal Justice at Shippensburg University.
“The hopes and dreams of racial justice live today, not tomorrow,” said Jirard. “Sharing in the diversity of the volunteers’ vision and voices shows the power of collective action to dismantle any wall. My privilege, my honor, to be but a small part of the collective.”
Thursday’s conversation, “2021: A Look Ahead” promises to explore current issues surrounding “Policing and Policy.” Guest panelists include Pennsylvania House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton and Vice President of the National Police Accountability Project, Jonathan Feinberg.
“WITF is public media for every person,” explained Ron Hetrick, WITF president and CEO. “By providing the media platform that supports our neighbors to talk to each other about difficult topics in a civil, respectful manner, we are fulfilling our mission.”
Having a dialogue with panelists as well as audience members has been a key component of the virtual events. “Audience engagement and feedback has been overwhelming positive,” said Woolridge. She shared an attendee’s note following “A Conversation on How to Be an Ally.”
The guest shared, “I attended to be become better informed. I come from a white background and live in a troublingly conservative area. I need to know more about the issues that people of color face. Recent events have brought home to me how responsible I am for barriers for people of color.”
The fifteenth conversation in the “Toward Racial Justice” series takes place Thursday, February 4 at 7:00 p.m. on WITF’s YouTube channel. The community is encouraged to submit questions and share personal experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org or by using #RacialJusticePA on their preferred social media platform. Updated event information and registration is at witf.org/events.
WITF is a trusted provider of public media news and programming for approximately 2.3 million people in 19 counties of Central Pennsylvania, encouraging children and adults to Live Inspired®. A member station of PBS and NPR, WITF’s media services include public television (WITF TV and WITFK PBS KIDS 24/7), public radio (WITF 89.5 & 93.3), websites (including witf.org, TransformingHealth.org, stateimpact.npr.org/Pennsylvania, and ExplorePAhistory.com), and a production services division (Media Solutions). WITF’s mission is to inspire lifelong learning by connecting people and communities of Pennsylvania through trusted journalism, thoughtful discussion and educational experiences. WITF engages minds and enriches lives. For more information, visit witf.org.