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

Posted at 10:14 PM, Jan 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-16 22:14:55-05

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.