Tag Archive: racial truth and reconciliation

  1. RTRW 2022: Themes and Presentations


    We are looking forward to our third year recognizing Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week, August 22 – 28, 2022. Each year, we intentionally select RTRW themes to reflect the intersections of current events, history, culture, time, and policy that we find ourselves in. This year is no different as we continue to navigate divisive political landscapes and strive to promote trauma-informed healing, compassion, and justice at the center of our own work. This year, we have also experienced the power and importance of letting young voices influence and inform decisions that will impact them, their families, and their well-being the most.

    This year’s themes are:

    • Good Trouble: Necessary Trouble to Enact Change
    • Voices of Virginia’s Future: Highlighting Young Advocates & Activists
    • Organizational Change: Reckoning & Reconciling Our Truth

    This year, we are approaching RTRW with a renewed drive to incorporate community voices and stories. As such, we are announcing a call for proposals for each day of these themes.

    Presentations must be:

    • A minimum of 45 minutes and a max of 90 minutes in length
    • Presented virtually, August 23 – 25, 2022
    • In line with the Racial Truth & Reconciliation Mission & Goals

    If you or your organization are interested in presenting at this year’s Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week, read on to see which theme may be the best fit for you and your content.

    Good Trouble – Necessary Trouble to Enact Change
    Presenting on Tuesday, August 23, 2022

    “Do not become bitter or hostile. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. We will find a way to make a way out of no way.” – Congressman John Lewis

    Proposals for this theme may include (but are not limited to):

    • Workshops incorporating advocacy, activism, changemaking, etc.
    • Discussions of the varying roles in social change
    • Persevering through challenging political landscapes
    • Self- and community-care in the face of political and systemic adversities
    • Community roundtables/panels on how local leaders and community members are getting into “Good Trouble”
    • Storytelling and/or artistry celebrating the spirit of “Good Trouble”

    Voices of Virginia’s Future: Highlighting Young Advocates & Activists
    Presenting on Wednesday, August 24, 2022

    “There’s a moment where you have to choose whether to be silent or stand up.” – Malala Yousafzai

    Proposals for this theme may include (but are not limited to):

    • Community roundtables/panels comprised of young people
    • Workshops about outreach and engagement with young people
    • Discussions on how to effectively support and listen to young people
    • Presentations on the landscape of youth and young people in advocacy and activism
    • Workshops incorporating youth development, mentorship, etc.
    • Storytelling and/or artistry celebrating young peoples’ advocacy and activism

    Organizational Change: Reckoning & Reconciling Our Truth
    Presenting on Thursday, August 25, 2022

    “Unless an organization sees that its task is to lead change, that organization will not survive.” – Peter Drucker

    Proposals for this theme may include (but are not limited to):

    • Workshops incorporating organizational change theory
    • Community discussions on themes of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice
    • Presentations on organizational change, accountability, growth, etc.
    • Facilitated discussions on leading, managing, and embracing organizational change
    • Storytelling, truth telling, and/or artistry centering around organizational change and growth

    Proposals may be submitted here by Friday, July 15, 2022.
    For further questions or support needs, contact Kristin Lennox, kristin@vakids.org.

  2. Recap: Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week (August 22-28, 2021)

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    This year marked Virginia’s 2nd Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week (RTRW), a virtual week-long conference hosted by Voices for Virginia’s Children. It promotes the reckoning of Virginia’s past to reconcile our present and future.

    In June 2020, Virginia’s trauma-informed community networks of color convened to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on at-promised communities and the modern civil rights movement. They felt an innate urge to respond and react to two pandemics, COVID-19 and racism as a public health crisis. In response, there became a clear need to concentrate efforts on the impact of cultural, racial and historical trauma on marginalized communities.

    This influenced them to launch Virginia’s first-ever Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week (RTRW) which served as the launch point for Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia, a campaign that implements the mission and goals of the week over a longer period of time. The ultimate goal is to connect community-level trends to trauma and equity-informed policy at the state level in order to champion policy opportunities that improve the social determinants of health and combat inequities. View this one-pager about the transition from the Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia to Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia. View this one-pager about Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia.

    RTRW was an awareness week launched in 2020 with a mission to empower marginalized communities to promote healing, reconciliation and social justice for children, youth and families across the commonwealth. Checkout Virginia’s 2nd Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week Opening Address led by Amy Strite, CEO of Voices for Virginia’s Children and Chlo’e Edwards, Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia Campaign Coordinator.

    This year, we had more than 57 organizations and over 1,013 participants including children and youth, executives, policymakers, advocates and activists presenting and facilitating discussions on key issues impacting Virginia’s children. Governor Ralph Northam officially declared August 22-28, 2021 as Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week in Virginia and kicked off the policy panel on Virginia Leads a Just Future for Children and Families.

    The four conference tracks concentrated in ‘policy, equity, and data analysis’, ‘advocacy and action’, ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ and ‘community-centered engagement’ provided an opportunity for all ages and demographics to engage in truth, reconciliation, healing, and repair. The community-centered track presented an opportunity for kids to engage through Exploring Patterns, Rhythm, Music, & Dance with the Children’s Museum of Richmond and the Richmond Performing Arts Alliance Wolf Trap program. Other tracks, such as the advocacy and action track, tackled issues like racism as a public health crisis and presented ways advocates could mobilize at the federal, state and local-level.

    Each of our Voices’ staff members led presentations ranging from Equity, Social Justice, & Community-Centric Fundraising to Modern Racism in the Foster Care System: Why It Persist and How We Change. Staff members also participated in a social identity storytelling exercise to share the personal experiences that shape the passion they bring into the work to champion public policy to improve the lives of Virginia’s children, youth, and families. View the stories here.

    You can find the events on our archives page or YouTube playlist and also continue to support Voices’ mission and Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia by purchasing a t-shirt and share why you support #RacialTruth. Stay involved and view all upcoming Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia events here. Visit our RTRW site here.

    Please take a moment to fill out this brief 12-question survey. We would love to hear about your Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week experience.

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  3. Empowering Asian American Voices: Sutisha Simluang

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    Sutisha Simluang (pictured above) is a first-generation college graduate, community leader, and Thai immigrant. While a native of Thailand, Sutisha was raised in Arlington, Va. after entering the United States to live with her father at the age of 12. In this blog post, she shares with Voices her own experiences growing up as an immigrant child in Virginia and as an Asian American, as well as those of her family.

    In 2005, Sutisha Simluang’s father came to work in America on a work visa with the hopes of doing agriculture work. But instead, he became a victim of human trafficking. The employers he came to work for took all of his documentation and forced him along with others to work on their farm with no pay. Fortunately, he was able to escape and get connected to refugee and human trafficking resources that assisted him with getting back on his feet.

    The programs offered to Sutisha’s father included translation services that not only helped him access services, but also Sutisha and her sibling get connected to community resources. During that time, Sutisha speedily learned English and became a translator for her family and others in her community. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 27% of children under nine in Virginia are Dual Language Leaners (DLLs), which are young children who have at least one parent who speaks a language other than English at home. Language barriers can deeply affect the social experience and mental health of immigrant children and their families. Sutisha recognized an urgent need to address these barriers and felt that by doing so she could shield her family from the unpleasant truths of living in America as an immigrant and person of color.

    In 2019, 1 in 4 (24%) of children in Virginia were immigrants, meaning the share of children under age 18 who are foreign-born or reside with at least one foreign-born parent. Stop AAPI Hate produced a Mental Health Report in May of this year to report on the findings from three research projects that investigated the effects of anti-Asian racism on mental health among Asian Americans. The report found that one in five Asian Americans who have experienced racism display racial trauma, the psychological and emotional harm caused by racism and those who had experienced racism during the COVID-19 pandemic were more stressed by anti-Asian hate than the pandemic itself.

    Today, Sutisha often fears for the safety of her family due to police violence and negative interactions involving racial profiling. When Asian hate crimes were exacerbated due to COVID-19, she felt she had no choice but to reveal new truths to her family. She realized that shielding them from an understanding of America’s racial landscape and systemic issues would not help her, her family, or other immigrants and children of color facing similar experiences. Because of these experiences, Sutisha pursued a career in civic engagement and change. Sutisha now works as a coordinator at the Virginia Civic Engagement Table (VCET), which connects non-profit organizations working to advance equality and justice and those that strive to engage underrepresented communities in the democratic process.

    Our Racial Truth & Reconciliation initiative serves to empower the voices of marginalized communities, such as immigrant families and Asian American youth — voices like Sutisha’s. Supporting resolutions like Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis and continuing to use both an equity and trauma lens in our advocacy and policy work is vital to addressing systemic oppressions and inequality which affect children of color as they’re growing up.

    A great first step is to support the recruitment, hiring, and retention of clinicians of color who are vital to the mental health success of children of color, especially those who have experienced racial and generational trauma in their lives.

    Several of the barriers that Sutisha and her family identified during our discussion highlights the need for advocacy and policy changes. In particular, we have identified areas in our own policy priorities at Voices where we can be stronger advocates to improve language access and reduce barriers, addressing the importance of decriminalizing racial bias, increasing culturally relevant and community-based resources and services, and bridging the gap to create culturally competent and diverse workforces.

    As champions for children, it’s our job to listen, engage, and uplift voices of our communities. You’ll continue to see more stories like Sutisha’s where we explore the lived experiences of Virginia’s children and move to take action to build healthier children, youth, and families.

    Learn more about advocacy and activism opportunities within the Racial Truth & Reconciliation Campaign.

    To connect with us and our work, please join our Voices Community for Kids.

    For more on this topic, check out:

  4. Still We Rise: Creating Black History Recap

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    Many have made calls-to-action to restore the fundamental ideals of democracy in an attempt to divide an undivided nation. Liaising bridges across partisan lines, races and ethnicities, and generations is imperative to creating an inclusive future for Virginia’s children and the nation.

    While America is among the most diverse democracies in the world, much of its history includes systems of violence and discrimination that have had traumatic consequences for those directly impacted, as well as future generations and communities. Virginia was the second largest state for the importation of enslaved Africans and the number one state for the domestic slave trade. Richmond, Virginia was the epicenter of that trade with its largest revenue derived from the impact of the slave trade as a commercial enterprise. In 1619, the White Lion brought 20 slaves ashore in Jamestown, Virginia. Some historians estimate six to seven million slaves were imported, depriving Africa of its healthiest men & women. This Black History Month, Black advocates raised their voices and attested to experiences regarding police brutality, resilience despite all odds, America’s history of racism, and more through an event, “Still We Rise—Creating Black History.” Yet, for centuries, Black community members and children have been advocating to deconstruct systems that continuously leave the privileged advantaged and the oppressed disadvantaged.

    • In 1957, Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP, recruited nine high school students to face the resistance to integration in schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. Governor Orval Faubus ordered the National Guard to bar the students from entry, stating it was “for their own protection.”
    • In 1963, thousands of students skipped classes, gathered at Sixth Street Baptist church and marched to downtown Birmingham, Alabama to advocate for desegregation. Hundreds were arrested and carried off to jail in paddy wagons and school buses. 
    • In 2020, local college students with the Virginia Student Power Network hosted a “teach-in” in front of City Hall with the intent to gather overnight and learn more about police brutality and racial inequities following the death of George Floyd. They were met by the police with tear gas, pepper spray, flash grenades, and rubber bullets, turning the learning space into a warzone.
    • In 2021, Ava Holloway, 14-year-old founder of Brown Ballerinas for Change served as a mouthpiece during a press conference to mobilize advocates in support of Delelgate Lashrecse Aird’s House Joint Resolution 537 to recognize racism as a public health crisis in Virginia.

    This General Assembly Session, Delegate Lashrecse Aird’s resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis passed the Senate uncontested. This makes Virginia the first state in the South to explicitly recognize racism as a public health crisis through a declaration. The steps outlined in the resolution include priorities to:

    1. Expand the charge of the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity to address racism as a public health crisis to ensure that statewide policy efforts are analyzed through an intersectional race equity lens and offer funding recommendations; 
    2. Retain the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law as a permanent commission; 
    3. Require training for elected officials, staff members, and state employees on how to recognize and 50 combat implicit biases; 
    4. Establish a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity; 
    5. Promote community engagement, actively engage all citizens on issues of racism, and provide 53 tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color;

    This is a stepping-stone and there is much work left to be done to ensure all children and youth lead long, successful lives, regardless of their racial or ethnic identity. As advocates, we must ensure Virginia commits to racial equity through funding and administrative staff supports. We encourage everyone to join the work of Voices for Virginia’s Children’s Racial Truth and Reconciliation Virginia Campaign year-long to stand alongside those in solidarity that experience an injustice, to ensure racism is an institutional intolerance.

  5. 2021 Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia: Racial Truth & Reconciliation Priorities


    As the world faced stay-at-home orders in March 2020, communities across the country witnessed expanded attention that was called to what is essentially dual pandemics, the COVID-19 pandemic and racism as a public health crisis. Inequities that contribute to the social determinants of health were already present, but the pandemic further widened disparities that continue to contribute to poor social and health outcomes in marginalized communities.

    While great awareness has been raised around trauma-informed policy and practice over the past few years, we must acknowledge that this approach is incomplete. Today, communities across the state are raising their voices on behalf of much needed acknowledgment of the systemic inequities that perpetuate toxic systems and policy, and practices that reinforce the root cause of trauma and cause harm. Equality gives everyone the same exact resources. Equity acknowledges the disparities affiliated with oppression and inequality and, therefore, distributes resources based off of the needs of the recipients so that everyone can achieve their full potential in life regardless of race, ethnicity or the community in which they live. 

    While the COVID-19 pandemic presents economic challenges, Virginia is poised to reconcile hundreds of years of exacerbated inequities in order to correct the disparities that are further heightened today. Our talking points for the 2021 legislative session will focus on these themes:  

    1. Create systemic interventions that address the root cause of trauma. 
    2. Ensure Virginia’s public entities prioritize the needs of children.
    3. Connect parents to supports that foster resiliency and positive health outcomes.   
    4. Ease the impact of trauma and victimization that children and families experience.  
    5. Promote financial stability and resilience for families through community-level supports.  
    6. Address unintended consequences and biases that can lead to additional trauma for children 

    Creating Systemic Interventions for Trauma

    According to a 2019 Pew Research survey, roughly eight in ten people who identify as Black with some college experience (81 percent) reported that they have experienced some form of racial discrimination from time to time with 17 percent reporting that this happens to them regularly. The American Public Health Association defines racism as a social system with multiple complex dimensions, including internalized or interpersonal individual racism, institutional or structural systemic racism, which unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities and unfairly advantages other individuals and communities. It ultimately decreases the strength of our whole society through investments that do not address the root cause of trauma, which further contributes to multi-disciplinary disparities.

    Racism As A Public Health Crisis:  Delegate Aird introduced a resolution during special session to declare racism as a public health crisis. It included numerous steps that Virginia can take to address systemic racism and its impact on public health, including the examination of racial inequity in Virginia law, implicit bias training for public employees and officials, a glossary of terms specific to racism and health equity and engagement with communities most impacted.  

    Prioritizing The Needs Of Children

    A prolonged activation of an individual’s stress response system in the body and brain without buffering can cause toxic stress to a child’s brain, which can disrupt the immune system, the ability to learn, and even the way DNA is read and transcribed. This is referred to as trauma. In addition, racial trauma refers to the ongoing impact of racism, racist bias, and the exposure to racist abuse. This can impact a person’s ability to develop authentic relationships, feel safe, and even live a long and healthy life.  

    According to the KIDS COUNT Data Center’s indicators, which include socioeconomic hardship, family violence, neighborhood violence and racist bias, 19 percent of Virginia’s children experience two or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). However, in 2017 to 2018, 37 percent of Black children experienced two or more ACEs, which is almost double the rate of trauma that all children experienced. ACEs can contribute to toxic stress in the brain, which is known as trauma. According to the CDC-Kaiser Permanent  Adverse  Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, trauma is connected to long-term negative physical, social and emotional health outcomes.  

    Governor’s Children’s Cabinet: The Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, which is chaired by First Lady Pamela Northam has made great strides in promoting wraparound services that children need, including food insecurity, trauma-informed systems and school readiness. Virginia should make the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet permanent and create a position for a Chief Advisor in order to continue this momentum in ensuring children and families have access to the services they need to thrive.  

    Connecting Parents To Supports

    In 2019, Virginia Mercury reported that Black women in Virginia were three times more likely to die after giving birth than a white women, a disparity that Governor Northam made a goal to eliminate by 2025. Home visiting is a voluntary, evidence-based program that supports low-income pregnant women and parents of children birth age to five to access the resources needed to raise children who are healthy and ready to learn. Governor Northam’s 2021 budget proposal includes $2.4 million to increase access to doula care for pregnant women, which also reduces racial disparities in maternal health. What the COVID-19 pandemic has proven is that racial and ethnic disparities already contribute to poor health outcomes. Investing in these supports is a step in the right direction to shorten that gap. 

    Foster Positive Health Outcomes: Virginia is poised to support the Governor’s budget proposal to increase access to doula care for pregnant women through Medicaid. In addition, Virginia can take additional steps to liaise the gap in maternal and infant health disparities by fostering familial resiliency through Medicaid reimbursement for home visiting services.  

    Easing The Impact of Trauma And Victimization

    The Virginia Heals goal is to bring healthcare, child welfare, justice and other systems together to coordinate and align efforts to ensure a timely and seamless response to young victims, their families, and caregivers regardless of the system that they may engage with or enter. The program offers a number of services, including resource mapping, screening for trauma, referral and response, agency assessments, family engagement, grant development and more, including COVID-19 interventions.  

    The Governor’s budget proposal includes $517,553 in FY22 to provide general fund support to the Virginia Helping Everyone Access Services (HEALS) program.

    Support Early Identification and Intervention: We know that our communities and public entities are facing challenges in adjusting to the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, our systems of care should be cohesive and easy to navigate for those who need them. Virginia can adopt and support early identification and intervention as it relates to easing the trauma and victimization that community members may experience.

    Promoting Financial Stability And Family Resilience

    The Family and Children’s Trust (FACT) Fund is the only public/private entity that addresses trauma across a lifespan and the only organization that provides funding to Virginia’s 27 trauma-informed community networks across the state. These are multi-disciplinary networks that convene professionals in order to develop community-level trauma-informed approaches to services and best practices. Trauma is caused by an acute event or a combination of events. Virginia’s history includes historical, cultural, and intergenerational trauma that is passed down through generations, including the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Old Point Comfort, now Ft. Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

    Today, communities face compound trauma in the wake of the pandemic as a trauma, economic trauma and more. Epigenetics is the study of how one’s behavior and environment can cause changes that affect the way their genes work, which can further impact a child’s stress response system and contribute to challenges, such as anxiety and stress. However, a loving, healthy and safe environment can promote intervention. Community networks have played an imperative role in fostering family economic security through COVID-19 interventions, including educational programming to foster community resilience, in addition to facilitating referral and response programs to help families meet their basic needs through emergency grant funds and services.  

    Fund Community Partnerships: While funding for community-based networks occurred during the 2020 General Assembly through approval for five communities to decide to allow casinos through a voter referendum, this funding will not be seen immediately and instead in about four to five years. However, Virginia is poised to promote the urgent financial stability communities need now through investments in FACT funding for community partnerships, which will include technical assistance to community networks and funding for COVID-19 interventions through referral and response resources to combat economic challenges and break cycles of intergenerational trauma.  

    Address Unintentional Consequences And Biasess

    In 2019, when accounting for the population of children that were chronically absent from school in the 4th grade, of that population 9 percent are Asian and Pacific Islander, 30 percent are Black, 31 percent are Hispanic or Latinx, 23 percent are Non-Hispanic white, and 28 percent are two or more races. Several factors contribute to chronic absenteeism, including chronic illness, poor transportation, a lack of access to mental health services, involvement in juvenile justice systems, negative school experiences, a lack of engagement and misconceptions that absences are only a problem if they are unexcused. Contributing to community-level prevention and wraparound resources that increase family engagement will contribute to an authentic solution rather than punitive policy and zero tolerance interventions.

    Address unintentional biases that can lead to additional trauma for childrenAs our systems seek solutions to liaise disruptions in educational settings that lead to chronic absenteeism, such as housing and other supports, we must ensure these interventions do not inadvertently widen cultural, racial and ethnic disparities. We need to ensure policy responses do not contribute to unintended consequences, such as the school-to-prison pipeline.

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