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Newsletter Date Volume 1, Issue 1

April 2015

Conference Report

A world dealing with historical pain By Rob Corcoran In the week following city-wide events marking the momentous days of April 1865 when a bloody civil war ended and when Emancipation became a reality for millions of African Americans, 300 people from across North America and from Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America gathered in the former Confederate capital. Recognizing that the wounds of history, systemic racism and discrimination along racial, ethnic or religious lines divide societies everywhere, they came to explore the connections between history, memory and social change.

INSIDE THIS ISSUE A world dealing with historical pain 1

Senator Tim Kaine & Rob Corcoran

unless you understand the background narrative,” said David Hooker, a mediator and scholar. Our primary work, he “This year we commemorate the said, is “undoing the narrative of hundredth anniversary of the ‘otherness,’ which is the foundation of Armenian Genocide, 20 years since the exploitation of labor.” One fellow Srebrenica massacres, 25 years since panelist was Tom DeWolf, a descendNelson Mandela’s release from prison, ent of the most successful slaveand 70 years since Hitler’s death trading dynasty in US history, who camps were liberated,” said Dr. underlined new research from epigeMargaret Smith of American Universi- netics that shows how genetic switchty, at the opening plenary. “None of es in DNA caused by trauma are this lessens the impact of our passed on to successive generations. remembrance this week of the ending of America’s civil war and 246 years of “Hope in the Cities has for the past 25 chattel slavery. We are here to years played a key role in helping the confront the fact that we still live with community learn that to transcend the the repercussions of that history in the past we must first honestly address it,” lives of millions of Africans, African said Richmond’s mayor, Dwight Americans and white Americans, and Jones, welcoming the international in the psychic realities of the United guests. He praised University of RichStates today.” mond president, Dr. Edward Ayers, for his leadership in “ensuring that the “You can’t change the structures sesquicentennial commemorations of Continued on the next page

Who owns the boat and the lake?


Never fully accepted into society


What does inequality mean to you? 5 Implicit bias and police-community relations 6 What comes next?


The power of moral imagination


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Continued from page 1

Alex Wise, Gail Christopher, Rob Corcoran

The Reconciliation Statue

the Civil War would be vastly more inclusive and accurate than any previous recounting of our city’s shared history.” But despite progress in race relations there are many “residual injustices that have not been put right.” Dr. Ayers, a lead partner in the conference, underscored the need to talk about hope as we talk about history: “Richmond is at the beginning of the journey not the end.” Omnia Marzouk, president of Initiatives of Change International, highlighted the significance of the conference for a world dealing with historical pain, suffering and the oppression. “We need an alternative approach, one that addresses injustices and restores dignity to create harmonious communities.” Virginia Senator Tim Kaine highlighted the difficulty of overcoming historic distrust as in the current negotiations

social diversity.” One on the role of museums and public history sites included museum leaders and historians from South Africa, Netherlands, Curacao, Canada and the US. A forum on economic inequity was led by Ellen Robertson, a member of Richmond’s city council. Dr. Thad Williamson, who heads the mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building, said Richmond is the ninth most inequitable metropolitan region with 26 percent of the city living in poverty. His office, he said, has “institutionalized the civic voice of people in poverty.”

"We have some of the wealthiest people in the world but almost half of the population lives below the poverty line,” said Jose Carlos Leon Vargas, whose non-profit organization works to empower the most marginalized people

“Richmond is at the beginning of the journey not the end.” Dr. Edward Ayers with Iran. “Can we turn the page of our very real history and find a better way forward? Our history shows that trust doesn’t happen easily; it is about dialogue and deep conversations.” Dr. David hooker, Tom DeWolf, Dr. Margaret Smith

Mayor Dwight Jones

One of ten breakout sessions


Dr. Gail Christopher, vice president and senior advisor at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation which provided major funding support for the conference, said “Healing is not an end, it is a process in which we have those rare moments and gifts of awe and appreciation of the perceived ‘other’ [and when] we see so much more of who we are and who we could be.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorialized: “It has been said that countries fear too much history. If the impulse reflects human nature, then it also denies humanity’s birthright. History stresses truth; truth invites reconciliation…Conferences such as Healing History further a necessary process.” Ten working groups provided the foundation of the conference. Topics ranged from “creating inclusive, sustainable economies,” to “unearthing whiteness,” “social determinants of health," and “housing and education policy for

in Mexico. “The change in equality starts with me and what I do. If I want the people that live in the slums to change but I’m not able to work with the government or speak honestly with my colleagues, then I am not making a change or stopping inequality.” European entrepreneur Marcello Palazzi reminded participants that although the focus is often on big corporations, 90% of the world’s businesses are SME’s (Small Medium Enterprises). He explained the role of B Corporations which had “moved from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), to measuring social good, to now measuring the quality of everything the business does – it is a holistic idea.” Much of the conference leadership was taken by local and national partners, including the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and Everyday Democracy. The University of

Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and the Library of Virginia donated meeting space and meals.

In the context of the national debate on excessive police force and the shooting of unarmed black men, a crowded

public forum focused on overcoming bias in the criminal justice system. Attorney Preston Tisdale, who serves on the

Connecticut Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System, traced the historical context

from the time of slavery that produced a mindset where “the black male is inherently dangerous.” Michael Nila, a former police commander who trains law enforcement organizations across the US and internationally, said there is a need to give “emotional maturity” to young officers who operate in high pressure, dangerous environments. When he surveyed senior police in several cities about the ideal qualities of an officer, “they all described the attributes of a moral being. Yet less than one to five percent of training has anything to do with creating a moral being.” In another public forum, South African and US historians reflected on the aftermath of slavery and apartheid. Describing the historical amnesia around slavery in South Africa and his own struggle to come to terms with his identity as a member of Cape Town’s colored community, Rev Michael Weeder, dean of the Anglican Cathedral of St George the Martyr, said, “If all three rivers make my humanity how can I disown or privilege the other?” The concept of implicit or unconscious bias was present throughout the conference. Dushaw Hockett of the Within Our Lifetime network told the audience that the human mind takes in 11 million bits of information every minute, but it is consciously aware of only 40. “Bias often operates at the subconscious level. It is triggered automatically through rapid association of people, groups, objects and stereotypes. It also runs contrary to our stated beliefs and attitudes and it operates at both the individual and interpersonal level.” “There are forces working against what we are trying to do: denial, disconnect and distrust (and sometimes despair),” said Martha McCoy, executive director of Everyday Democracy. “There are also powerful forces within ourselves and the community that work for the work we’re doing: connection, learning, change and justice. How do we leverage this?”

“Change begins with us. We have to examine our core beliefs. What am I holding onto?" added her colleague Carolyne Abdullah. They called three leaders to share perspectives on “mobilizing the moveable middle.” Niankoro Yea Somaké, vice president of his country’s League of Mayors, said, “In Mali we have all the natural resources we need. But 80 percent of our budget is supported by foreign aid. What is missing is leadership with integrity.” When he became mayor of his municipal district of 44 villages and 55000 people, only 10 percent of taxes were being collected. By building trust with local leaders, collection rose to 68 percent within a year. Lawrence Bloom, who had a successful career as a property developer and director of Intercontinental Hotels, told of his transition to an advocate for ethical business and environmental responsibility. The financial, social and environmental crises are all crises of values, he said, and “can only be dealt with by a global family.” "How do we reach out to unexpected allies?” asked Mee Moua, who grew up as a refugee from Laos and was elected to the Minnesota state senate. “Of all the many people that have helped me in my life, apart from my mom and dad, very few look like me.” One such unlikely ally is IofC board chair Alex Wise. “I am one of the privileged ones. I am white and my family were slaveholders and Confederates,” he said. Yet he told how a few years ago he had the idea of creating what is now the first museum in the country where people can begin to understand the Civil War from diverse perspectives – Union, Confederate, and African American. Story is to the human family as water is to fish,” said Dr. Gail Christopher of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, summing up the conference. “Never allow the work that you do to be diminished. People will say healing stories are not action. In my experience, action starts in our heads and our hearts. It is that experience of transformation that motivates us to take action... Richmond could be the critical point of racial healing in this country in the most complete way.”

Guests from South Africa

A journey through Richmond’s history

Preston Tisdale, lawyer from Connecticut

Table conversations

Gail Christopher and Edward Ayers


Talia Smith, working with Initiatives of Change, UK, arrived ahead of the conference and headed up a media team that produced daily stories and postings on Facebook and Twitter. We publish excerpts from some of her stories.

Who owns the boat and the lake? Mike Smith, head of IofC UK’s Business Programs, chaired “Sustainable Inclusive Economic Development,” one of ten breakout sessions. Panelists from Scotland, Mexico, the USA and England showcased and discussed models of best practice in grassroots and national economic development affecting people's lives and job opportunities. Lawrence Bloom, former Intercontinental Hotel Group Executive Committee member and now Chairman of Be Energy, a bioenergy company, from London talked about how investments have started to become three dimensional. He said. “Ten years ago it was always about risk and reward; the higher the risk, the greater the reward. The words ‘social impact’ never existed.” Now there is a movement to include sustainable impact in companies such as climate bonds and the principles of sustainable investment. Forty-five trillion US dollars have already been signed up for the social category investment. Sustainable investments are now starting to flow into the social arena. “It is a powerful process and there is more and more opportunity for businesses within the social world,” Bloom explained. Teresa Hodge from Washington, DC, an advocate, business innovation strategist and certified life coach, specializes in re-entry into the employment market for ex-offenders. In 2006 she was convicted for a white collar crime that she never committed. Yet she served a four and a half-year sentence. “I learned that persons don’t go to prison, families

Never fully accepted into society “The closest link to who we are and where we’ve been is where the person who birthed us was born,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, as she introduced a breakout session on “Identity, Immigration and Citizenship.” Mee Moua came to the US with her parents as refugees from Laos and became the first member of the Hmong community to be elected to the Minnesota state senate. She invited each person to introduce themselves by stating their name, where they live now, and where their mother was born. Countries represented in the circle included Bulgaria, India, Pakistan, Laos, Egypt, Belgium, Mali, Jamaica, Australia, Germany, Congo and Nigeria. (next page)


go to prison.” She had to leave her daughter behind. On the tenth day in prison Hodge had a vision: “I wanted to use my experience to help myself and help others in a similar situation.” Prison is big business in the USA; there are 2.3 million people in jail and 700,000 released each year, but in Hodge’s opinion most are left to suffer in silence. “It is important for us to see the narratives of those who go to prison breaking stigma and stereotypes" she said. Jose Carlos Leon Vargas works with marginalized people in Mexico where he is co-founder of SiKanda, (meaning ‘something that is changing/evolving’), a non-profit organization that empowers highly impoverished communities, particularly slum dwellers and informal waste pickers. “I was blind to this community and the situation of these people,” he said. An important role of SiKanda is to remove the “layers of blindness” of people in urban areas and raise awareness of these people living on less than $1.50 a day. Economic development is competitive and Vargas believes that “most of the time business lacks a human element. “ Inclusiveness begins with listening to each other and sustainability means building relationships. “We need to strip away our taboos and prejudices which include race, religion and gender; and once we remove these layers we have individuals who can work together for the common good." The panel discussed “teaching people how to fish.” Bloom commented, “It’s not just about teaching someone how to fish, but who owns the lake and the boat!”

Anjum Ali, an IofC USA Board member, led the group through an identity exercise. Each person listed ten words that described them, such as race, gender, ethnicity, profession or talent and then, by stages, reduced the list to one final word. One participant commented, “As I started striking words out, it reminded me that who I am is constantly being erased … this felt like my lived experience.” Another reflected that it felt freeing. “All of a sudden I didn’t feel stressed by having to maintain all these identities.” With many people in the world fighting for the right to maintain their identities, understanding what humanity is doing when it holds on to its perception of "self" and the “other” is critical. “It is important that we develop empathy when we see such difficulty this creates. Conflict zones based on identity can spiral out of control quickly,” commented Ali. She explained that our need to belong can move us into victimhood/perpetrator cycles; and as victims, we can find ways to justify our actions. Lusa Nsenga-Ngoy was born in Zaire (when his mother was born it was Congo, and now it is Democratic Republic of Congo). He spent four years in Congo, was educated in Belgium and now lives in the UK. In school in Belgium he was the only non-white; he was taught the Cartesian/ European model of thinking (I think therefore I am); and at home he was reminded of his Katanga/Bantu ancestry which believes identity is a shared experience involving others (I am because We are). “What happens to individuals who struggle to find a sense of belonging in a culture which isn’t

the one in which they originate?” Lusa tried to hold the tension between these two very different philosophies of identity – “the paradox of belonging.” He developed a sense of blackness in a white context. “I wish someone had introduced me to the wealth of African culture and tradition that might have helped me answer this question better for myself.” A participant from Sri Lanka talked about colonial history, his country’s genocide in 2010, victimhood and a Diaspora spread around the globe. “The narrative the world has is ‘Tamil Tiger Terrorist.' Although we were fleeing persecution, the world saw us as the persecutor, a sense that as refugees we didn’t come in ‘the right way’.” A member of the Roma community from Hungary shared a personal story. Research shows that Roma communities are the most discriminated in the world: “Always a minority, voiceless, stateless, isolated and never fully accepted into society.” A woman from Punjab, India commented, “Being Indian means one is used to a very diverse culture, people from many countries including Nepal, Bangladesh - and so many indigenous languages. Every 200 meters within India the language/culture changes.” One observer summarized the discussion: “The session was a conversation on identity and citizenship from a sociopolitical standpoint but also gave valuable insight into the social ramifications of global politics and government policy decisions on assimilation, integration and current tensions.”

What does inequality mean to you? “Inequality deeply impacts all of us,” said Ellen Robertson, a member of Richmond City Council, in her opening statement at the session, "Inequity in our time." She asked, "What does inequality mean to you? How do you define it? How can we address it? What makes a just society?” Panelists highlighted their work in relation to inequality. “Social determinants of health are the environmental and social choices that we have in relation to our health,” commented Albert Walker, from the Center on Society & Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. He spoke about this country’s history and the past decisions that have marginalized certain groups. “Those decisions make physical alterations to people’s lives such as health.” Walker noted that academics often come to communities to study the problems and then go away, “but we are involving everyday people in the research process.” Marcello Palazzi highlighted the economic side of inequality and introduced a new economic model, B Corps (Benefit Corporations) that he is teaching at Stanford University. Palazzi’s journey has been about bringing ethics into economics and social good into business. He calls this the

next generation in business. “Part of our agenda is looking at how we redress the imbalance between corporations and small medium enterprises. Many governments can’t help in this area which is why entrepreneurship is so important.” “A just society is one that allows every individual the opportunity and support needed to reach their full potential,” stated Dr. Thad Williamson who directs the City of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building. He encouraged the audience to ask “What is justice?” He listed equal opportunities, full access to society and its services and reducing poverty, a core need in Richmond. Williamson believes that poverty is the legacy of history and white resistance to integration. “Poverty perpetuates poverty – it is hard to break the cycle.” Robertson concluded, “We have the resources, we have the wealth. We have to learn to live within comfortable needs where everyone can enjoy a good quality of life. I don’t believe there is a limit in resources; it is the distribution of these resources – we need to support our government to make the necessary change in order for this to happen.”


Several participants have sent blogs or articles about the conference, some of which have been published elsewhere. All of them are online at We print one here and encourage others to send their reflections which we will include in future newsletters.

Implicit bias and police-community relations A reflection by Iman Shabazz following a public forum exploring the historical/cultural context that shapes policecommunity relations. November 24, 2014 in the state of Missouri, a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18 year-old young man was announced. Just two days earlier, in the state of Ohio, a 12 year-old boy was fatally shot by Officer Tim Loehmann. Meanwhile, nine days after the country learned that Wilson would not be indicted, its conscience was further heightened to learn that Officer Daniel Pantaleo would escape the fate of being charged for choking an unarmed 43 yearold man to death. These are but 3 cases involving white police officers and black male victims where the evidence under public scrutiny held that the deaths of these black males were not only unwarranted but pointed to a more poignant problem that has persisted in the relationship between law enforcement and culturally diverse communities. Citizens led a series of protests and acts of civil disobedience across the country and around the world. More importantly, these and numerous other cases with similar profiles (white cops, black victims, most unarmed) have forced questions around racially biased policing practices and the need for building trust between law enforcement and culturally diverse communities into the national discourse. Law enforcement agencies throughout the US are highly challenged to effectively serve culturally diverse communities. Successful navigation of these challenges must include comprehensive cultural sensitivity and awareness. In other words, law enforcement officials must be able to effectively engage people from different cultures. The critical challenge is that the factors governing the ability of officers to engage communities with equity and fairness may not be as salient as it may seem they should be. Researchers have demonstrated that certain biases, which are stored in and function from a part of our brain


where we don’t even know they exist and have no means of becoming conscious of them (herein interchangeably referred to as unconscious/implicit bias), have a primary impact on how humans interact, especially amongst racially and ethnically diverse groups. In order to create the space for trust amidst communities and law enforcement all must be willing to embrace the art and skills of the intellect and emotion it requires. The vulnerability to identify and own personal biases, especially those that are unconscious in nature, builds the platform upon which counter-measures can be taken to impede any negative impact of these biases; then cooperative communication and interaction can take place. Opportunities for building trust and exhibiting fair and equitable treatment amidst groups of which we may be unfamiliar must start along the road of social engagement (identifying), social consciousness (redefining), social example (modeling) and social reinforcement (reinforcing) of new associations, attitudes, thinking and behaviors that are shining stars of internalized cultural competence. (excerpted from White Paper on Opportunities for Law

Enforcement Officers to Build Trust and Exhibit Fairness in Culturally Diverse Communities by Iman Shabazz)

What comes next? Trustbuilding Forum Series

2015 Conferences Caux, Switzerland

These forums are held 3-4 times a year in Richmond, VA.

"Champions of Change" - May 12, 5:30-7:30 pm YMCA of Greater Richmond, 2 W Franklin Street, Richmond, VA 23220 Daryl Atkinson is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ). In 1996, Daryl plead guilty to a first-time, non-violent, drug crime and served 40 months in prison. Since his release, Daryl completed college and law school and has become an advocate for people with criminal records. Attorney General Eric Holder, in honoring him, said, “Daryl overcame his own involvement with the criminal justice system and has since worked to build a better future not only for himself – but for countless others who deserve a second chance.”

Join the conversation on criminal justice reform!

Exploring the human factor in global change June 26-July 1 Trust & Integrity in the Gobal Economy

July 3-8 Just Governance for Human Security

Community Trustbuilding Fellowship July 10-14 Caux Dialogue on Land and Security

This unique five-part program held in Richmond, VA, increases the capacity of community leaders to overcome divisions of race, culture, economics and politics. It offers tools to connect theory with practice; personal transformation with social change. In the context of understanding history and its legacy, it teaches skills to address critical issues of bias and inequity, and increases confidence to work creatively for reconciliation and justice. Twenty-five participants from different cities and representing a wide diversity of age, background and experience. Five residential weekend modules based on the methodology of Hope in the Cities. Experiential and innovative learning methods.

Now is the time to apply! Dates, costs, program detail online.

July 16-19 Addressing Europe's Unfinished Business International Peace-Builders' Forum

July 27-August 2 CATS - Children and Adults Partners for Change?

Trust & Integrity in the Global Economy - TIGE This conference, June 26-July 1, is one of several summer conferences held at the Initiatives of Change center in Caux, Switzerland. (see side panel) It explores new models of leadership in business through workshops and case studies. It is a platform for all stakeholders in the global economy, who wish to inspire, connect and encourage businesses and individuals to act according to their core values.

Several Americans plan to attend.

August 4-9 Seeds of Inspiration

August 10-15 Impact Initiatives Challenge

Website: programme-2015

More information online at 7

The power of moral imagination By Alex Wise, Chair of Initiatives of Change USA. From a speech given at the closing session of the conference The timing of the recent Healing History international conference in Richmond was by no means accidental. It was designed to explore how to realize the promise of equality never fully realized when the Civil War ended 150 years ago. We were looking for some way to straighten out the tangled legacy of slavery, civil war and race in our country – and similar issues elsewhere in the world. I’ll make a confession: I am one of the privileged ones. I am white and my family were slaveholders and Confederates. But as someone at the conference said, beware stereotypes. My great-great grandfather (same name as mine) was a general in the army that surrendered on April 9, 1865. As Governor of Virginia in 1859, he had signed John Brown’s death warrant. At the secession convention in 1860, he had led Virginia out of the Union. On that morning at Appomattox he was not ready to accept the olive branch. When Union general Joshua Chamberlain paid his respects, Governor Wise famously spat out the words, “We hate you, Sir.”

As a mature man, he was a political leader in Arkansas during Reconstruction. For my family the Civil War and its legacy is a family affair. In a sense that is also true for our nation. Sometimes we get so caught up in our frustration over events like Ferguson, that we forget we are connected by ties of language, culture, history and yes, blood. We’re not enemies – we’re family. And maybe that’s why the frustration and rancor can be especially acute. But let’s remember that we’re bound by something much stronger than what separates us – our common prayer that America can live up to its founding promise. As we search for answers, let us approach these matters the way Lincoln urged in his Second Inaugural, “with charity for all and malice toward none.” For love gives rise to what I call “moral imagination.” It’s the ability to see something is wrong, to see how things could be different, and to act to realize that vision. It’s not enough to see – you have to plan and act as well. Love means understanding that all of us fall prey to the traps of human nature. Our race and color aren’t the problem; it’s our human nature. The truth that people with power are tempted to abuse it applies equally across color lines.

I was outraged when I watched the violence in Selma on television in 1965. And that stuck with me. My association with Initiatives of Change and its Hope in the Cities program began when I was launching a museum where people could begin to Henry Wise’s brother-in-law, General Meade, the Union victor understand the Civil War from diverse perspectives – Union, at Gettysburg, was also at Appomattox on the opposite side. Confederate, and African American. That museum is now The youngest son of Henry Wise was an eighteen-year-old Rebel lieutenant. He was my great-grandfather, John Sergeant called the American Civil War Museum and is here in Richmond. Hope in the Cities played a critical role and Wise. Under orders from the Confederate President, he made accompanied me and supported the effort at every step. his way through converging Union troops to learn the fate of the Confederates at Appomattox. John Sergeant Wise was And I now have the privilege of being board chair of Initiatives proud of his Confederate bona fides all his life of Change. If a conservative like me is involved it shows that the work of racial healing is for people of all persuasions, no In 2006 I learned that the first person of African descent to matter where on the political spectrum you fall. It is simply speak at a major-party political convention in America - the Republican convention in 1872 - was also a son of Henry Wise going back to first principles. Doesn’t our Declaration of of Virginia, and therefore half-brother to my great grandfather. Independence say, “All men are created equal?” Even if that weren’t true in the Founders’ eyes, it has to be true in God’s.

Thank you to all those who helped make the conference possible. The interns and volunteers. The partners who made space available and provided meals and transportation. The plenary speakers and the facilitators of breakout sessions and small groups. The international guests who brought perspective and global thinking. Thank you to Karen Elliott Greisdorf for her photographs, many seen here in the report.

Special thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for its support. Initiatives of Change, 2201 West Broad Street, Suite 200, Richmond, VA 23220


804 358-1764

Profile for IofCUSA

Healing History 2015 conference report  

"Healing History: memory, legacy & social change." This international conference was held in Richmond, Virginia, USA in April 2015.

Healing History 2015 conference report  

"Healing History: memory, legacy & social change." This international conference was held in Richmond, Virginia, USA in April 2015.

Profile for iofcusa