National Day of Racial Healing sparks conversation on racial disparities in local communities

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Tuesday was National Day of Racial Healing and organizations in West Michigan are doing their part to start the conversation. The day started two years ago as an event to follow Martin Luther King Day and address systemic racism.

Organizers of the gathering in Grand Rapids say the day is about having uncomfortable conversations and figuring out what individuals can do to step up and make a difference.

The Goei Center in Grand Rapids was packed with people Tuesday night as quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. played on speakers.

"It really is an honor to Dr. King's legacy to be able to bring people together in a community and continue his legacy of finding our common humanity and being able to address the racism that we still see reflected in our community," said Ciciley Moore, program manager for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Moore says they partnered with the Urban Core Collective in Grand Rapids, which is  focused on addressing issues that people of color face today. The Urban Core Collective includes the Family Outreach Center, Hispanic Center of West Michigan, Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, West Michigan Urban League, Baxter Community Center and the United Methodist Community House.

"What we look to do is just to have a conversation and understand that racial healing is individual work, so how can we as an individual show up?" said Beca Velazquez-Publez, "not only for ourselves, but for our neighbors, and for our colleagues that we just know professionally and not personally."

The National Day of Racial Healing started two years ago, falling on the day after Martin Luther King Day. It's aimed at locating areas of racial disparity within a community and figuring out how to get rid of them.

"There's a lot of talk, but very little action," said Velazquez-Publes. "Some people are afraid to say 'racism;' some people are afraid to say 'equity;' some people are afraid to feel the discomfort of having those conversations and addressing their own bias. This is a great platform to have a safe space, to have that conversation, and do some individual work."

Visit the Urban Core Collective website for more information.

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  • J.B.

    I do not have a problem with this conversation.
    In my experience the so called “Minority’s” are some of the most racist and bigoted people i have ever met.
    And despite claiming to be victims of racism almost constantly, they are generally the first to judge on skin color or appearance of an individual and to act on that prejudice almost instantly.
    i do not think we have a racism problem so much as a hypocrisy problem.
    This so called “fear” of a conversation is a farce, the only fear here is the fact that the people who always want to talk about racism and see it everywhere are generally the biggest racists in the room and tend to be in complete denial about their own actions and bias but are more than happy to talk racism non-stop as long as it only focuses on “white” people.
    That is not called having a conversation about racism IMO…that is just a one sided lecture by people in complete denial of their own personal actions and motives.
    Lets start talking about that for awhile…

  • Kevin Rahe

    Identity politics, especially when it’s given attention by the news media, does not help to end racism. Presuming that someone feels a certain way about another race because they voted for this candidate or that one, or that if you’re a certain color you ought to be voting for this party rather than that one, fuels racism. No political party in this country has a lock on doing what’s best for minorities.

    That said, it does take a conscious effort for many of us (of all races) to shed preconceived notions when we encounter someone who is different than us or appears to fit some stereotype that’s been handed down or on to us. As far as it helps people do that, this effort sounds like a good thing.