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Today, Tuesday, January 18, is the National Day of Racial Healing. Launched in 2017 by the W.K Kellogg Foundation, the annual observance is meant to be a time to contemplate our shared values and create the blueprint together for #HowWeHeal from the effects of racism.

Deborah Aubert Thomas
headshot of deborarh

Today, Tuesday, January 18, is the National Day of Racial Healing. Launched in 2017 by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the annual observance is meant to be a time to contemplate our shared values and create the blueprint together for #HowWeHeal from the effects of racism. It provides the opportunity to bring ALL people together in their common humanity and inspire collective action to create a more just and equitable world. It builds on the work and learnings of the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) community partners for whom it is fundamental to have a clear understanding that racial healing is at the core of racial equity. 

image with racial healing and date


The TRHT Framework and process is designed to help communities heal and produce actionable change and calls for communities to gain understanding of the predominant factors and conditions that are supporting a racial hierarchy and blocking the progress many in philanthropy are striving to make. This understanding is spreading across Ohio with myriad offerings of the Racial Equity Institute’s (REI) Groundwater and Phase I trainings. Funders in the Philanthropy Ohio network are instrumental to this widespread learning by partnering with REI independently or in partnership with Philanthropy Ohio. Last year, funders in Dayton and Toledo partnered with us to bring multiple sessions of the trainings to their communities, reaching 355 of their grantee and community stakeholders.

rei logo


Philanthropy leads this work while also navigating their own learning journeys. Twenty-four funders completed our first Racial Equity Capacity Assessment in 2021. Next week, each organization will receive a custom organizational profile capturing their self-reported internal racial equity practices, policies and culture as well as external practices related to grantmaking, convening and community partners. We will be releasing a collective anonymized snapshot report, Funders on the Journey: Racial Equity Assessment Report also next week to provide a source of inspiration to action for the philanthropic sector across Ohio and beyond.

Multi racial images

Join us Tuesday, February 1 as we Sit down with Kip Holley, Ph.D., researcher at the Kirwan Institute Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, for an insightful conversation about the results of the report.

And inspiration is indeed what is needed as we start a new year while continuing to navigate the evolving pandemic and racial injustice.

I found optimism as I attended the virtual 31st annual MLK Day of Learning at Capital University in my hometown. The keynote speaker Hanif Abdurraqib, poet, essayist and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio, encouraged us to be “ferocious in the seeking to imagine what is possible.” This struck me as a mantra to carry throughout the year and beyond. When it becomes overwhelming while leaning into the realities of history and current impacts of systemic racism, seeking to imagine what is possible can provide hope and inspiration for our future.  

I found inspiration during a breakout session with Julialynne Walker of the Bronzeville Growers Market, where she shared how environmental justice was a lesser-known passion for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She linked Dr. King’s words to specific community actions and emphasized that environmental justice seeks to achieve two important goals: fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. In short, everyone should be entitled to the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and be allowed equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

The session concluded with the introduction to a long line of folks currently dedicated to environmental justice: from Dr. Robert Bullard, considered the father of the environmental justice movement, to activist and scholar Dr. Beverly Wright, planet walker John Francis, climate justice and health scientist Adrienne Hollis, national park ranger Shelton Johnson and many others. I look forward to learning more about their dedication and finding inspiration indeed!

I reflect on Dr. King’s words as I seek inspiration for the field of philanthropy:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

I invite you to seek inspiration and discuss centering equity and justice with your peers at an informal coffee conversation next week. Philanthropy Ohio members can register now for the Equity and Racial Healing Virtual Coffee on Tuesday, January 25.

Deborah Aubert Thomas
President & CEO 
Philanthropy Ohio

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