National Day of Racial Healing to help begin new dialogue about racism in the U.S.

Lousiana’s

Foundation for Louisiana is partnering with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on a National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday, Jan. 17. This day is part of a new initiative known as Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT). Its goal: to create a new conversation about race in our community.

The time has some for us to have honest conversations about racism in this country. No matter ones’ political affiliation, it cannot be denied that this last election cycle has shown us that racism continues to be pervasive in this country.

Foundation for Louisiana is partnering with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on a National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday, Jan. 17. This day is part of a new initiative known as Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT). Its goal: to create a new conversation about race in our community.

TRHT will focus on transformation in America — the nation was conceived in the constitution and built on a belief in racial hierarchy, a collective national consciousness that has dominated the educational, economic, social and legal discourse for centuries. TRHT will provide a collective commitment and long-term determination to embrace a new narrative for the nation, a belief in our common humanity.

The history of our state continuously reminds us of the need for this conversation. In 1712, just six years before New Orleans was founded, there were only 10 blacks in the whole state. In the 2015 census, one-third of Louisianans identified as black or African American, the second-highest rate in the country. The presence of the slave trade was felt throughout Louisiana and particularly in New Orleans, the largest slave market in the country. The residual impact of slavery continues to permeate life for residents of all races in the city.

From the German Coast uprising in 1811 to the Danziger Bridge shootings in 2005, the history of New Orleans is one marked by turmoil. While the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was intended to abolish slavery, the reality is that it provided a loophole that has led to further trauma and displacement. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,” it reads, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” From the earliest days following the legislation, the “except as punishment for crime” exception allowed for unlawful and unjust arrests and prosecutions leading to further enslavement including forced “apprenticeships” for young boys. This inequity continues to be reflected in the disproportionate representation of black and brown people in the criminal justice system.

Post-Katrina, the ongoing displacement and the disproportionately slow recovery for black and brown New Orleanians show that there continues to be a racial divide. This is evidenced not just in jails and prisons — Louisiana is the most incarcerated state in the world — but also in the school system, the housing market, health care institutions and the economy. A 2015 report by the Urban League of Greater New Orleans found that post-Katrina white households grew wealthier while black households did not, leading to an increase in the income gap of 18 percent. Further, the report found that more than half of black children in the city now live in poverty.

While New Orleans served as home to the largest slave market in the country, the experience of slavery did not exclude Baton Rouge. The road from New Orleans to Baton Rouge was lined with plantations. By 1860, the U.S. Census Slave Schedules for East Baton Rouge Parish reported the presence of 8,570 slaves. In that same 2015 census report mentioned earlier, more than half of Baton Rouge residents identified as black or African American. The legacy impact of slavery continues to undergird life for residents of all races in Baton Rouge.

The events of this past summer have emphasized the extent of the strong racial divides in Baton Rouge. Many residents of the city suffered this year, whether it was from the fallout of the police shooting of Alton Sterling and the resulting protests, the shootings and deaths of Baton Rouge police officers and East Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputies, or the Great Flood of 2016. The impact of these events has affected residents differently based on geography, race and economics.

The shooting death of Sterling was not the first of its kind; it just received the most attention. There have been 10 other instances of police-involved taser incidents or shootings in Baton Rouge since 2013. Five men died. All of them were black.

The geographic racial divide in Baton Rouge is stark. South of Florida Boulevard, the city is mostly white and wealthier, while north of Florida Boulevard the city is black and poorer. This disparity is reflected in availability of services including access to quality schools, good jobs and safe and affordable housing. It is evidenced in a slower recovery from the flooding and in a lack of trust between community and the police.

Foundation for Louisiana’s founding was deeply rooted in the belief that racial equity and inclusion represent the best opportunity to strengthen Louisiana communities and people. More than 11 years later, we find evidence that this work remains the most critical before us. Enduring, authentic change is largely rooted in expanding the ranks of people who truly believe in the worth of each person, across races.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, over the same period of time, has invested heavily in people and communities working toward racial healing as a critical part of creating sustainable opportunity for children and their families. The lessons learned in and through this work have informed a groundbreaking framework of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) – a practice for communities to sustainably achieve the amelioration of America’s entrenched belief in racial hierarchy. TRHT is a comprehensive effort, implemented community by community – beginning in 10 regions including in Baton Rouge and New Orleans – to address issues of racial inequity in all sectors and to plot a path toward healing. Through TRHT, Kellogg is bringing together communities to bring about transformational and sustainable change, and address the historic and contemporary effects of racism.

Foundation for Louisiana, with W.K. Kellogg’s support, is proud to serve a group of resident leaders across every sector in the city to elevate the principles of this work and develop practices that move us forward to tell important truths, expand on important racial healing practices and frame enduring opportunities to transform the socio-economic fabric of our region. Our thesis is that without this work, our efforts to move our state forward with a bold and courageous vision for the next 300 years will falter. Ensuring the entire city/region participates in crafting a truthful narrative, engages in democracy to the fullest extent and is part of the local economy is critical to strengthening our communities and achieving successful outcomes that serve the interest of everyone.

As we move forward with this multi-year project we invite you to join us. You can begin on Jan. 17 – on this first National Day of Racial Healing – by making a commitment to engage in this racial healing project over the next few years. We invite people who want to join others in an incredible learning practice to preserve the very best of who we are and to make tangible progress on challenges that require positive solutions.

Respectfully,

Flozell Daniels, Jr.
President & CEO