Healing Illinois Funds Racial Healing Circles

Healing Illinois funds 100 racial healing circles in Cook County and training for 60 racial healing facilitators statewide

Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Greater Chicago is using a $300,000 Healing Illinois grant to host 100 racial healing circles throughout Cook County. The Healing Illinois grant also supports the group's training of 60 racial healing practitioners from communities outside of Cook County, which already has 300 racial healing practitioners. Trainings are scheduled for Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.

When people participate in racial healing circles hosted by Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Greater Chicago, they share stories of resilience, pain and loss, and sometimes they cry. "People discover things that they never thought they were going to share publicly," said José Rico, director of Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation, or TRHT, Greater Chicago.

And at the end of their experiences, participants make commitments to continue healing and to address white supremacy.

"Often times we have an unconscious belief that there is a racial hierarchy in society, and we expect those beliefs because they are ingrained in everything we do," Rico said. "So what the racial healing circle does is directly confront that false hierarchy of white supremacy by connecting people together."

TRHT Greater Chicago, an initiative of the Woods Fund of Chicago, has been hosting racial healing circles since 2018. It is part of a national movement that's funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and active in 13 cities and the state of Alaska. TRHT's healing circles have been occurring in Black and Latinx communities that were severely impacted by COVID-19. TRHT Greater Chicago has especially prioritized racial healing circles for first responders and front-line organizations serving the public, such as mental health clinics, community-based child providers, youth groups and organizations that passed out food and personal protective equipment.

Racial healing circles, which can consist of people of the same race or of diverse races or people from the same neighborhood or workplace, are for groups of 10 participants or more. Sessions typically last two to three hours. Participants are encouraged to commit to participating in four virtual sessions, where they share their stories and experiences and at the end make commitments to continue healing and addressing white supremacy.

In the first week of November, Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Greater Chicago began hosting circles for about 30 organizations that have requested them. Racial healing circles funded by Healing Illinois will run until Jan. 19, 2021, but TRHT Greater Chicago will continue to host circles throughout 2021. To sign up to attend or host a virtual circle, visit www.Transformchi.com.

"The individuals who we are encouraging to participate in racial healing circles are those who are fiercely involved in anti-racists efforts and those who are curious about wanting to have conversations about exploring race and humanity with people who they may not ordinarily think they have something in common," Rico said.

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