Together, we can heal our communities
By Milton J. Little, Jr., President and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yesterday, we honored Martin Luther King, Jr. for his life of service to the Civil Rights Movement, his power to strengthen communities, address social problems, bridge barriers and move us closer to his vision of a beloved community. And while we honor his legacy the third Monday in January of every year, the following Tuesday each year marks another important day for our community – the National Day of Racial Healing.
Today, January 18, 2022, marks the sixth year of the National Day of Racial Healing – a day dedicated to healing from the effects of racism. It is a day to acknowledge the stains in our country’s history and bring ALL people together in their common humanity to take collective action and create a more just and equitable world.
At United Way of Greater Atlanta, our longstanding commitment to remove racial barriers deeply impacting communities in our region remains stronger than ever. Our mission is to engage and bring together people and resources to drive sustainable and equitable improvements in the well-being of children, families, and individuals in the community. Simply put, our work is grounded in equity for all and is core to our mission to improve Child Well-Being.
In July of 2020, we launched our United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund. The fund was created to address the racial disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and to build on the new momentum from 2020’s civil unrest to address racial inequities and to advance deep and widescale changes. This fund invests in structural solutions that address the root causes of racial inequity.
Across the Greater Atlanta community we have seen immense support for the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund. Donations to-date of $3.1M have enabled us to provide multi-year grants to 19 partners. We have also seen a widespread commitment to learning about racial equity and healing through our 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. Through the challenge, we were able to engage more than 4,500 people across 36 states representing more than 1,200 organizations. Douglas, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties participated in the challenge with a variety of public sector partners such as school districts, county commissioners, corporate partners and Chambers of Commerce. Last year, Gwinnett County officially proclaimed the Tuesday after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the National Day for Racial Healing in Gwinnett County. The breadth and depth of insights that have informed our work in racial equity could not have happened without the convening of a diverse and talented group of volunteers, advisory board members and thought leaders.
Healing is an integral part of the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund’s title. According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, racial healing is a process we can undertake as individuals, in communities and across society as a whole. In healing, we recognize our common humanity, acknowledge the truth of past wrongs and build the authentic relationships capable of transforming communities and shifting our national discourse.
As we reinforce the mission of achieving the promise for a more equitable Greater Atlanta, to improve Child Well-Being, healing is top of mind. United Way of Greater Atlanta recently provided grant awards to 8 nonprofits who not only have a racial justice lens but are also focused on healing and restorative practices that are rooted in place and grounded in community. In order to have both thriving and resilient communities, we must respond and invest in solutions that transform the systems that have disrupted so many lives in Black and Brown communities. Through these grants, we are committed to learning alongside our partners to better understand the role “healing” plays in creating a brighter future for children, families and communities and inspiring collective action.
Examples of funded partners are as follows:
- Sistercare Alliance – SisterCARE Alliance is a network of professionals, mothers, sisters, entrepreneurs, activists, self-care advocates, and leaders who believe that protecting Black women and their well-being is fundamental to ensuring family and community.
- Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiatives(PAD)– is an initiative born out of the work and vision of Atlantans directly impacted by policing and incarceration and committed to a new approach to community safety and wellness.
- Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective – is a network of healers, health practitioners, and organizers in the U.S. Southeast, began using the term “healing justice” as a framework to identify how communities can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence.
- JustGeorgia Coalition – was formed in 2020 by the Georgia NAACP and the Southern Center for Human Rights to form a racial justice advocacy coalition following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
In honor of National Day of Racial Healing and beyond, we honor these organizations and their leaders for their longstanding commitment to advancing racial equity and healing for our region. Together, we can do MORE to achieve the promise to be an equitable Greater Atlanta for all. For more information on the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund, click here.