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Toward Racial Justice returns with real conversations about race and identity

  • Heather Woolridge

February is Black History Month, and across Central Pennsylvania, many continue to reckon with how to confront systemic racism and injustices. WITF’s Toward Racial Justice series returns this month to address these issues nationally, regionally, and in terms of how they affect the daily lives of Midstate residents.

Launched in June 2020, the series has featured 14 virtual community conversations tackling difficult topics such as Racial Trauma & Mental Health, Education Disparities, Policing & Safety, and How to Be an Ally.

The first conversation explored the roots of institutional racism and solutions for how to change the system and break the cycle. Panelist Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed, Racial Justice Coordinator at YWCA York, reflected on the complex nature of the problem.

“We’re thinking about systemic racism in health care,” she said. “We’re thinking about employment. We think about housing. Like there’s so many different layers. And I think that is still goes back to the history of racism in this country and how even race was invented for the purposes of exploitation.”

Panelist Dr. Armenta Hinton, HACC’s Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity and Title IX Coordinator, said the burden of fixing systemic racism shouldn’t fall to the targets of it.

“It’s not our water to carry. It’s not our work to do,” she said. “Undoing systemic racism is not our issue. They always come to the Black and Brown person or the oppressed to say, tell me how to fix it. Black people can’t do it. Brown people can’t do it. The creators of this system must get to work.”

These powerful and moving conversations have resonated deeply with those who’ve attended.

“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,“ said one viewer who participated in a conversation on “How to be an Ally.”

Another viewer explained that the series “Inspired me to have more open dialogue.” Another said, “It has inspired me to think more about my own privilege and use my voice to share the experiences of others, and stay more educated/informed.”

Toward Racial Justice will continue to enlist the help of community co-organizers to present biweekly YouTube Live conversations Thursday evenings at 7 through 2021, offering the community a safe platform to learn and share experiences around topics like COVID, Vaccines & Trust, Multiracial Family Dynamics, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) Owned Businesses: Economic Impact, Development and more.

Stephanie A. Jirard is one of the project’s community co-organizers and Assistant Provost for Graduate Studies & Chief Diversity Officer and Title IX Coordinator at Shippensburg University. She said the Toward Racial Justice conversations are timely.

“The hopes and dreams of racial justice live today, not tomorrow,” she said. “Sharing in the diversity of the volunteers’ vision and voices shows the power of collective action to dismantle any wall. It’s my privilege, my honor, to be but a small part of the collective.”

During a recent conversation about race and the media, panelist David Stamps, Assistant Professor in Strategic Communication & Mass Media, Louisiana State University said, “Spaces like this matter. (These) conversations need to happen.”

WITF invites the community to join the conversation. Learn more about upcoming livestreams at witf.org/events and explore the full archive of discussions at witf.org/racialjustice.

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