"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 2020 and only days into 2021, we have been faced with deeply troubling images and acts of hatred as well as glimmers of light, hope, and possibilities for a brighter year. Dr. King's words and actions resonate with me, because even as he was a warrior for justice, he talks about love. For me, that is what his work represents - love. That is also what I think our work represents. We, in the human services field, are the hope for so many people in Illinois. It is a responsibility and privilege to have the power to help and to heal.
Much is said about how we are a polarized country and that our differences are vast and cannot be bridged. I do see this and am troubled by it, but I hold on to the hope that it can be bridged, if we want it and choose it. Each of us can do more to create a more diverse, inclusive, and loving world.
Remembering and reaffirming and being inspired are not enough; we must challenge ourselves to both speak out and live out the messages of Dr. King of love and the need to advance equity and racial justice.
As the heart of our State system, we are on the frontlines for the fight for justice for all. We, the human services workforce, help strangers - it is our jobs to do so. We have chosen this as our occupation.
Looking back over the unparalleled year we have navigated, we have so many reasons to feel proud. We recognized and helped address the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. We are acknowledging the pain and the harm inflicted on Black communities as a result of police violence.
We are recognizing our need to do better and be better at seeing and respecting our shared humanity and dismantling an unbalanced system that privileges some over others. We have one of the most diverse workforces in the state and serve an even more diverse community base; so, we can and must make efforts to learn from and listen to each other.
As you know, we launched the Office of Strategy, Equity, and Transformation and have made advancing equity, racial justice, inclusion, and diversity a priority across the organization. We also propelled Healing Illinois, an initiative engaging thousands of residents from communities all across the state in racial healing events and dialogues, and providing opportunities for communities and individuals to begin the process of healing from the harms caused by racism.
Additionally, January 19 marks the National Day of Racial Healing. Conversations and activities are being planned for the next few months. The IDHS Healing Illinois initiative has partnered with Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation-Chicago (TRHT) for the 5th Annual National Day of Racial Healing (NDORH). NDORH events will take place virtually between 10am - 3pm. The event will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube and available to view after the 19th. These activities are an initial step towards the deeper work of our Equity, Racial Justice, Inclusion, and Diversity plan which will continue to be built upon and rolled out over the next year.
Lastly, log onto the IDHS OneNet Page for resources for Dr. Martin King Jr. Day, observed by many to be a day of service, and beyond. In addition, check the Healing Illinois webpage to learn more about the almost 200 organizations involved in this initiative and find an event hosted by an organization near you. Most events are virtual, and open for public participation. These events range from formal panel discussions, to parent workshops, to teen theater, to healing circles. This year and in the years to come, I hope that we at IDHS continue to embrace and live out the tenets of love and equity that Dr. King fought for. As always, thank you for all that you do.
Grace B. Hou