CHICAGO-Most people can agree that 2020 was a year unlike any other. The coronavirus pandemic adversely impacted people of color and people who earn low wages. The surveillance and policing of African Americans gained preeminence in the news, fueled by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
More recently, Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wis., were greeted with armored police vehicles. Meanwhile, members of a violent mob took selfies with a police officer in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
These were the external issues the U.S. had endured by the time the National Day of Racial Healing (NDORH) was observed on January 19, 2021.
Some at the second annual NDORH in Illinois explored how the calamities of the previous 13 months impacted them personally.
"[NDORH] allows me to bring all of me and shed the parts of me some of the world refuses to accept," said therapist Cindy Danzell, who facilitated one of the virtual peace circles at the event. She is African American.
Dr. Gail Christopher, who started the movement that brought about the National Day of Racial Healing, echoed and expanded upon Danzell's thoughts in recorded remarks.
"Racial healing work is work that expands our circles of engagement and centers participation from a core understanding of our unique humanity and interconnectedness as human beings," Dr. Christopher said.
Her framework, Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT), is based upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa at the end of the apartheid era.
TRHT Greater Chicago is the name of the organization that facilitated Chicago's NDORH commemoration. TRHT Greater Chicago is a key partner in the Healing Illinois initiative, facilitating racial healing circles for hundreds of people across Cook County and training circle facilitators in other parts of the state.
José A. Rico, director of Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Greater Chicago, said that his organization brings together white, Black, indigenous and other people of color "for collective healing around racialized trauma."
"We're coming together to repudiate the notion of white supremacy-the false notion of white supremacy," he said with emphasis. "And so, we're doing that by centering that day on native, Black and mestizo cultural and healing practices."
It was likely that the more than 500 attendees agreed that healing circles could impact society for the better.
"This is work that must happen before our communities can heal," said Jason Matsumoto, a film producer from Chicago.
He attended NDORH upon the recommendation of two of his friends who attended last year. A performer of taiko, a Japanese drum, he was impacted by the murder of George Floyd. It moved him and others to teach racial equity workshops within the taiko community.
Likewise, Matsumoto said the personal stories in his healing circle affected him deeply. "Strangers," he said, touched him with the "constant barrage of inequity interwoven across all of the sharing."
Iris Gutierrez Berrios, an attorney in the Chicago area, added that it was a privilege to attend. "This event is key to the growth and development of society," she said.
Dr. Christopher, whom Rico has described as a visionary, also touched on the economics of racism in her recorded remarks.
She said 90% of the revenues from peace circles were returned to the young people and practitioners of the event. "In so doing," she said, "[TRHT Greater Chicago] is looking at the economic issues that our communities are facing."
Since the 2019 NDORH, TRHT Greater Chicago has facilitated as many as 50 racial healing circles per month, for a total of more than 500.
"In a small way," said Dr Christopher, TRHT Greater Chicago is "finding ways to deliver resources and revenues directly to the communities that are served and to the people who are serving in those communities. So, they are modeling what our country has to embrace right now."
Learn more about Truth. Racial Healing & Transformation
Become a facilitator: https://drgailcchristopher.com/updates/rx-racial-healing-workshops/
Learn about the TRHT framework: https://healourcommunities.org
Read Dr. Christopher's bio: https://drgailcchristopher.com/bio/
Read Dr. Christopher on Huffington Post: "The National Day of Racial Healing"