Tag Archive | Partners for a Racism-Free Community

Partners for a Racism-Free Community announces 2018 conference

unnamed (3).pngPartners for a Racism-Free Community hosts its 2018 conference, Standing at the Intersection, noon to 6 p.m. March 5 at DeVos Place. The conference will focus on intersectionality and how racial bias often intersects with other aspects of an individual’s identity that can be marginalized- such as gender, sexuality, ability, religion and so forth- even within spaces they identify with.

Intersectionality is a term coined by scholar Kimberle Crenshaw as a way to help explain the oppression of African-American women. FORUM 2018 will aim to center the voices of intersectionality and will feature organizers, educators, and leaders from within the Grand Rapids community.

unnamed (4)Keynote speaker, Charlene Carruthers, is a young social justice activist from Chicago who focuses on Intersectionality. Ms. Carruthers’ career in justice advocacy spans over ten years, working with some high-profile activist organizations including Color of Change and Women’s Media Center. She was an integral member in the creation of the Black Youth Project 100, and has served as National Director or National Coordinator since the organization’s founding in 2013.

Tickets available now! Take advantage of the Early Bird Special by purchasing your tickets before February 15th. Group Pricing is available for groups of 5 and 10. Student Pricing is available at a discounted rate.

Purchase Early Bird tickets      Visit Facebook Event page

2017 Equity Profile highlights potential for equity to drive shared prosperity

d4d9f39aca054e979f1356c054ec4613_175x175_croppedReleased by Partners for a Racism-free Community 

An Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, released April 28 , highlights inequities in income, employment, education, and opportunity in Grand Rapids. The report was developed by PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at USC, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Since 2011, PolicyLink and PERE have engaged in a formal partnership to amplify the message that equity—just and fair inclusion—is both a moral imperative and the key to our nation’s economic prosperity as America’s demographics shift and communities of color emerge as the new majority. An Equity Profile of Grand Rapids underscores while the city demonstrates overall strength and resilience, gaps in income, employment, education, and opportunity by race and geography place its economic future at risk. In 2014, more than 40 percent of residents were people of color, double the share (20 percent) in 1980. Diverse groups are driving growth and change in the region and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“The City of Grand Rapids believes in equity-informed decision making which is why we are committed to creating and implementing an equity dashboard and scorecard,” said Stacy Stout, Assistant to the City Manager, City of Grand Rapids. “We don’t want data paralysis, we want action; if you have analysis without the action it often results in managerial racism and that hurts the community. Tools like the PolicyLink Equity Profile help us better visualize that work.”

“Robust data about the state of equity in Grand Rapids is essential for crafting strategies to improve outcomes for vulnerable children,“ said Huilan Krenn, Director of Learning and Impact at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. “Our foundation is committed to enabling communities to take data-driven actions using the powerful data contained in the Equity Profile.”

“There has been growing consensus amongst economists that more equitable cities and regions experience more sustainable growth,” said Jessica Pizarek, Associate at PolicyLink. “This is also true for Grand Rapids.  If racial gaps in income were closed, its economy would be $4 billion stronger. We call this the ‘racial equity dividend.’”

Other key findings in the report include:

• Since 1980, communities of color have driven the city’s population growth.  While Grand Rapids’s population has not grown much overall (only a net increase of about 9,000 people), its demographic makeup has changed significantly.  All of the city’s population growth since 1980 has come from communities of color, which has countered steady decline in the number of residents who are White.
• Young people are leading this demographic shift.  Three in fiveyouth under the age of 18 in the city are non-White.  Looking to the future, Grand Rapids will become a majority people-of-color city around 2050, just behind the nation, which will become majority people-of-color in 2044.
• In 2014, 12 percent of all residents who could work and were employed full time but still lived below 200 percent of the poverty line.  Latinos have the highest rate of working poverty, at more than 26 percent.
• Median hourly wages have dropped for all residents since 2000, but Black workers saw the largest decrease of nearly $3 per hour from 2000 to 2014. Latino workers continue to earn the lowest median wage of all groups at $12.30 an hour.

“I am glad PolicyLink is elevating data about racial inequities, particularly at a time when we are being presented with new studies locally showing disparate interaction with law enforcement in Grand Rapids communities of color,” said Faye Richardson-Green, Executive Director of Partners for a Racism-Free Community.

The equity profile and potential solutions included therein will serve as a unique resource for local advocates and residents seeking to address disinvestment in communities of color. To this end,PolicyLink and Partners for a Racism-Free Community are holding a panel discussion and community forum around equity in Grand Rapids this morning at DeVos Place (303 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). To download a copy of the report, click here:


About PolicyLink
PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works®. For more information, visit PolicyLink.org.

So you want to be an ally?

pfrfcWhen: May 19, 2017
Where: Inner City Christian Federation (920 Cherry St SE,
Grand Rapids, MI 49506)
Cost: $45 (lunch included)
Click here to register.

Join Partners for a Racism Free Community for its May Learning Lab, “So You Want To Be An Ally” – A Safety Pin Box Workshop.” Join Safety Pin Box Co-Founder Leslie Mac for a workshop digging into what defines allyship in this unique time of Resistance. This session will feature personal reflections from Leslie’s work around the country, critical best practices for creating authentic accountability with marginalized communities, hands on breakout group work and a 4-week Safety Pin Box task to take home.

unnamedLunch is included.

About Leslie Mac

Leslie Mac is a Brooklyn born & raised activist and a first generation American of Jamaican ancestry. She founded the Ferguson Response tumblr to connect nationwide efforts supporting the important racial justice movement started in Ferguson, MO. She has since expanded the Ferguson Response Network to provide additional support for Black organizers working to create lasting social change.

Projects include the Movement for Black Lives Convening, Women’s Freedom Conference & #MLKSitIn. She attended Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism and is a founding member of the Black Lives of UU Organizing Collective. In 2016 with fellow activist Marissa Jenae Johnson Leslie founded Safety Pin Box, a monthly subscription box for white people striving to be allies in the fight for Black Liberation.  She was recently named to Essence Magazine’s list of 100 Woke Women and is BlogHer’s 2017 Impact Voice of the Year. You can follow her on twitter @LeslieMac or visit LeslieMac.com for more information.

Do Black Babies Matter?

imDuring the first year of life, twice as many black babies die in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids (11.9 per thousand) than white babies. In Muskegon, the numbers are even higher. To take a look at why these numbers continue to plague infants born to black women of all socio-economic and educational levels, Partners for a Racism-Free Community sponsored a Nov. 30 program, “A Deeper Look at Racism and Infant Mortality.” Breannah Alexander, director of strategic programs, facilitated the dialogue that featured Cathy Brown, from the YWCA Kalamazoo, and Celeste Sanchez-Lloyd, from Strong Beginnings.

Black babies die at double the rate of white babies across the nation. Michigan ranks 40th in terms of good infant outcomes. However, first generation black babies, i.e. babies born to immigrants just coming here from Africa, have the same infant mortality rate as white babies. This leads to the conclusion that the stress of living day to day in a racist environment is a factor in babies dying.

“This has to do with racism, the stress of not belonging, not feeling welcome,” Alexander said. “It’s everywhere in the US, regardless of income. However, poverty is another stress factor for most African Americans. Poverty is the thing we see first; we understand it. It does have an effect but not the only effect. Being black, regardless of income, doubles the risks for infant mortality and low birth weight.”

The YWCA Kalamazoo and Strong Beginnings, in Kent County, are taking intentional steps to keep more black babies alive. Sanchez-Lloyd noted that Strong Beginnings community health workers empower the families they serve by offering in-home mental health support, family planning guidance, a fatherhood program as well as help with housing, transportation and employment. These strategies not only create a healthier environment for pregnant black women but also help alleviate some of the stressors impacting them. “We are looking to save that baby but also to making an intergenerational change,” she said.


Left to right, Cathy Brown, Celeste Sanchez-Lloyd and Breannah Alexander.

Brown, who works in programs that offer support to victims of domestic violence, notes that black victims who are pregnant face even higher levels of stress. The YWCA Kalamazoo program seeks to meet women where they are at and figure out intentional ways of helping them carry heathy babies to full term.

Both presenters also spoke about the institutional racism pregnant black women face when seeking medical care. Providers routinely ask them about “baby daddies,” illicit drug use or simply assume that the pregnancy was unplanned and that they are not living a healthy lifestyle. Because many black women are using low cost clinic services, they are afraid to report such treatment for fear they may lose all access to medical treatment. Notably, Grand Rapids is the most segregated city in Michigan and among the five most segregated cities in the nation.

OKT’s Lisa Oliver-King was in the audience and related how her white OB-GYN mistreated her when she went in for her initial exam after discovering she was pregnant. “I had just finished my masters’ degree. My husband and I had the very best health insurance. This was our first and planned pregnancy. The doctor spoke down to me in a very condescending manner. He even asked me ‘How many sexual partners do you have?’”

A white, OB-GYN nurse in the audience says she has noticed this treatment of pregnant black women where she works. She is making efforts to raise awareness. She noted that where she worked, 75% of back women were suspected of drug abuse and referred to screening whereas only 25% of white women were. She believes this discrepancy is due to racism. This discrepancy has been noted and new initiatives will require all women to be routinely screened.

OKT believes that other factors impacting infant mortality include diet and environmental toxins. Across the board, women rarely eat a well-balanced diet including 80 grams of protein each day. Physicians don’t often provide sufficient nutritional advice and can tend to stoke fears of weight gain. This may influence women to eat less in the final months of pregnancy when the infant needs the most nutrition. Women of color living in neighborhoods without access to healthy foods face additional barriers.

Recent research has shown that organophosphate pesticides, fire retardants in clothing and furniture, compounds found in most plastics and on every electronic receipt are linked to premature labor and, low birth weight as well as autism, hyperactivity, lower IQ and cerebral palsy in children. Girls exposed in the womb have more risk for emotional illness; boys are more prone to aggression. (Organophosphates were first developed for deadly chemical warfare and later modified for use as pesticides.) Urban neighborhoods with income-challenged residents, most often people of color, have higher incidence of environmental toxins.

Another consideration is the American way of birth. As a nation, we rank 58th in infant mortality. That means, 57 other countries are a safer place to have a baby. (Cuba is one of the safest.) “Other countries recognize the value of health. They offer comprehensive sex education, comprehensive healthcare, lengthy maternal leave,” noted audience member, Peggy Vander Meulen, who is program director at Strong Beginnings. “Here we also have wealth disparities and racism. It’s political will. Are we going to fund wars and tax cuts for the wealthy or are we going to fund health and education?”

Progress has been made in Kent County. Vander Meulen reported that the 2003 Kent County black infant mortality rate was five times higher (22.3 per thousand) than white infants; today it is two times higher.  “We have made a lot of progress,” she said.  “We’re not there until there is no disparity. If we get to Cuba’s rate, I can retire.”

Alexander concluded that stress experienced related to racism is an undervalued part of the conversation. Sanchez-Lloyd agreed. “Black women carry the burden of being black, the weight of it every day, living in the white culture,” she said. “When I was pregnant, I remember the added stress of watching African American men get shot on TV and having to wonder if my husband, who is a police officer, would be shot when not in uniform, just for driving while black.”

Partners for a Racism-free Community offers free program Thursday

prfcDeconstructing Institutional Bias
4 – 5 p.m. Thursday, November 17
At Heart of West Michigan United Way
118 Commerce Ave SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 United States


On Thursday, November 17 from 4:00pm-5:00pm, Partners for a Racism-Free Community will open up its Building Block program Deconstructing Institutional Bias to the community at large free of charge. For more information on this event please contact Breannah Alexander at balexander@prfc-gr.org.

In addition, they released the following statement:

A Statement from Partners for a Racism-Free Community on recent news:

Last week members of our team were at Race Forward’s Facing Race conference in Atlanta, GA with 2,000 other individuals working to address racial disparity across the United States and, in some cases, globally. The attendees carried with them the weight of a saddening and damaging presidential election cycle and grappled with the meaning of the results. At Partners for a Racism-Free Community we cannot ignore the significance of the campaign rhetoric and the problematic nature of a space in which relentless hate speech yielded such an outcome.

This is what we know: right now, in this moment, we have to make a series of decisions that all impact how we shape our communities and our children moving forward. We know that there is a woeful need for continued education on race. We know that there are places and spaces that not only create uncomfortable realities for people of color in our communities, but dangerous ones as well. What we must first learn to do, however, is listen. In this moment, we must give room for healing and respect that, for some, a safety pin is still not indicative of a safe space. We must address the privilege that leads us to erase the feelings and pain of those around us as we ask our fellow communities members to unify in ways that silence their oppression.

As we navigate this moment we must remember to center the voices of those at risk. A lesson that has undoubtedly been reinforced this election cycle is that we must also be clear about how our ally-ship affects others. Are we listening to those we are supporting? Does our rhetoric translate into the kind of daily actions that address racism as it’s happening in our families, places of worship and communities at large? Are we having the conversation with all of our young people and what are we saying? We cannot sustain the practice of dispersing the burden of understanding to historically disenfranchised groups only.

Today, our team asks you to think about your commitment to addressing racism, creating inclusive spaces and navigating what it means to hold yourself and those around you accountable for their actions. In our profession, witnessing is crucial in doing this work and last Tuesday there was a failure to witness. This moment mirrors other pivotal historical moments globally – the recognition of strife that saves lives and the failure to witness that destroys them.

Our organization will continue to support this community as it works to better understand the kind of environment it wants to cultivate. We will continue to educate. We will continue to elevate the voices of the oppressed. We will continue to create spaces for dialogue. And we will work harder to activate community members who desire to engage further in this work and be the resource that you need for moments like these.

On Thursday, November 17 from 4:00pm-5:00pm, Partners for a Racism-Free Community will open up its Building Block program Deconstructing Institutional Bias to the community at large for free of charge. For more information on this event please contact Breannah Alexander at balexander@prfc-gr.org.

For more information on Partners for a Racism-Free Community, please visit our website at www.prfc-gr.org.