Racial Justice Institute

The Racial Justice Institute is a one-day, faith-rooted, highly interactive opportunity to explore and talk about race in a way you may never have before.

Want to bring the Racial Justice Institute to your church, community center, organization? Let us know.

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Small group discussions throughout the day help participants process what they’re learning by sharing their stories, questions and fears.

Are you tired of conversations about race that quickly turn into heated exchanges or statistics wars? As a white person, do you feel weird talking about race but can no longer just observe in an age of #BlackLivesMatter and mass incarceration? As a person of color, are you frustrated by explaining things to well-meaning white friends or being labeled “angry” for sharing your feelings? What about racial reconciliation? Colorblindness? History? How do we make sense of it all?

How do we talk about race? Process it? Live with it? Overcome the inequity attached to it? Most importantly, how do we, as people of faith, do something about racism?

At the Racial Justice Institute, we build on our faith tradition of storytelling and begin by telling stories: the stories of all God’s people—Indigenous, captured, colonial and immigrating people. These are our stories—our families, our histories, and our mythologies which become the cornerstones of what we believe about ourselves, our faith and our institutions. What do these larger stories mean to you, and what is your story of race in the American story?

Join us for a one-day interactive workshop to listen, share stories, talk, pray, sing, learn, reflect, heal, ask tough questions and discover creative ways to address racial injustice—together. This personal and communal journey will be facilitated by a group of gifted and wise, multiracial and interdisciplinary facilitators including ESA’s Racial Justice Fellows Micky ScottBey Jones and Darren Calhoun, Kenji Kuramitsu, AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez, Rev. Jen Bailey, Sarah Withrow King, and others.

This is your chance to talk deeply and honestly about race, in a place where you will be respected and listened to. A time to feel, contemplate and reflect, laugh, and most importantly, figure out how we can individually—and collectively—do something about racial injustice.

The Racial Justice Institute is a project of Evangelicals for Social Action’s Associate Fellows of Racial Justice and supported by the Sider Center at Eastern University.

Who’s this for?

Everyone who wants to have a deep, open, challenging, thoughtful conversation about race and oppression. It is for people of color and for white people—everyone. It’s for people just beginning to engage issues of race and for those who have been engaged for years and need a fresh perspective.

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Rev. Jennifer Bailey (left) and Micky ScottBey Jones invite participants to discern the lies of this age around race and to identify God’s truth and the call to shalom in this Kairos moment.

What will I take home from it?

More awareness and wisdom. You might even leave with a commitment to change your life and the unjust systems in our culture.

Why should I attend?

While it is said that  ignorance can be bliss, one person’s bliss can also be the source of another’s hell.  Attending the Racial Justice Institute will strike a serious blow to ignorance and thereby to hellish systems to which we sometimes obliviously contribute. Dr. Cornel West says, “Justice is what love looks like in public, and tenderness is what justice looks like in private.” Our scriptures tell us that the entire law is fulfilled in loving our neighbor (Galatians 5:4). If you want to see more love in our communities and experience more tenderness in our relationships—even across radical differences—we need to struggle with issues around race, because it intersects with all aspects of injustice in our current society.

What will I learn?

How and why we’ve gotten to this place where certain people have privilege and others have been “disprivileged,” how it hurts, and what we can do about it.

That this is YOUR story—no matter your ethnicity or race—and that you fit into the (his)stories of race, inequality, and justice in the United States and beyond and what that means for you.

How race has shaped American culture and systems like education, the justice system, economics, the church and housing, where we are today and where we might be going.

That there are a vocabulary, heroes, hidden history, songs and tools we can use in this struggle for justice.

That none of us is free until we are all free, and there is beauty in getting there together.

What will we do all day?

Open our raw hearts so that the tenderness becomes fearlessness. Listen, collaborate, reflect, ask questions, listen more, and do deeply personal work in a community setting.

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Sarah King, AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez, and Kenji Kuramitsu use storytelling to dismantle the lie of whiteness and the politics of privilege, as well as to process fragility and violence.

Yeah, but are we going to sit and listen to people talk all day?

Only if you want to. You can also speak if you’d like to share in small and large groups. And you can participate in all kinds of other ways, which is why we call it an interactive workshop.

In what way will this workshop be “interactive”?

Through contemplative exercises, meal time and small group conversations, activities, occasional singing, and journaling. If the Spirit leads, you are also welcome to dance!

Is this going to involve a lot of debate?

No. That’s not what this workshop is about. We’re planning opportunities for one-on-one conversations with each other and with the leaders…no game playing, just sharing our best truths—clear-eyed, vulnerable, compassionate truths.

Why are there so many people leading?

We want everyone to feel welcome, and we don’t want anyone to feel alone. Also, race isn’t just about black and white. So we’ve included facilitators with many different stories, many different perspectives and experiences—black, white, Asian, Latinx, straight, LGBTQ, 40s to 20s, Anglican to evangelical, historical Black church to Pentecostal.

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Participants share what they learned from, and how their own histories intersect with, a timeline of race-based violence in the US.

Am I going to get yelled at? Am I going to leave feeling more frustrated and hopeless than I already do?

We recognize it can be scary, confusing or exhausting to talk about race. We’ve created the Racial Justice Institute to provide a place to experiment with being brave, to ask questions that risk vulnerability and to crack open complex ideas. In the process, perhaps we will find personal and cultural healing. Even transformation. It’s designed to be a day that leaves you with deeper knowledge, inspiration, different questions and new relationships as well as resources and ideas for action. We create shared community guidelines, teach noble listening, and encourage co-creating a brave space. We hope that you’ll be changed and leave ready to help create change in the world.

Have more questions? Want to bring the Racial Justice Institute to your church, community center, organization? Let us know.