Impactful Change Starts with Education

Racial Equity Matters presented by bi3 is Changing Hearts and Minds

Many people believe that our systems are broken, that our neighbors fall behind because of flaws in our institutions. But that’s not true. The systems aren’t broken. They’re working exactly as they were meant to, and that’s the problem.

The causes of disparities in the Black community are deeply rooted in systems throughout our country – from housing to education, from healthcare to employment. We can change those systems and take our country forward. But that can only happen when we all learn and understand what got us here in the first place. Why do some of us thrive, while many of us – particularly our Black neighbors – struggle to get by?

Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s (GCF) Racial Equity Matters series, presented by bi3, is a candid, honest look at systemic racism and the history that embedded it within our institutions facilitated by Racial Equity Institute (REI). Thanks to our sponsors, bi3, Flip and Sheila Cohen, Duke Energy Foundation, E.W. Scripps Company, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Ohio National Financial Services and Tom & Nancy Shepherd and our supporters Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. The Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation, GCF once again offered this educational series free to the Greater Cincinnati community in 2020. By year’s end, GCF will have surpassed its attendance goal and expects to reach 1,000 participants. It is clear: our region is demanding this education and is taking the first step to ignite meaningful change.

One participant in 2020 was Cincinnati City Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. She shared: “Education is a way to open minds and for people to have more understanding and more empathy. It’s easier to work together and move forward when everyone is on the same page. Unless you’ve been exposed to this information, you might not really believe that these systems are in place. You can see how past racism continues, and the systems are still in place that really affect Black and Brown communities.”

“I really thought, ‘What could they tell me about racism that I don’t already know?’” she continued. “But this training really opened my eyes to a lot of things I wasn’t aware of.”

Lighthouse Youth & Family Services President and CEO Paul Haffner agrees. “There is generations’ worth of work to do to achieve racial equity,” he shared. “It starts small, but you keep building. You make good policies and government. You find good models to replicate.”

Haffner participated in Racial Equity Matters in 2019 with members of his leadership team and board of trustees. Inspired by the training, Haffner wanted to carry this work further in the community and contracted directly with REI in July 2020 to host four sessions for his employees, board members and even foster parents.

“You hear words like ‘implicit bias’ and ‘systemic racism,’ but when you go through these trainings, you get real examples,” Haffner shared. “It makes you question your own brain. It’s OK if we tap into that, own it and acknowledge that we can retrain our brain. The more of us who go through the training, the more of us who can check each other to make sure we’re doing things for the right reasons.”

Haffner wants to make sure Lighthouse is an organization that practices racial equity. “It starts with me,” he stressed. “How can we promote, find, recruit, train and develop more and more Black leaders and board members at Lighthouse?”

Such transformational conversations are critical. As non-profit organizations strive to create a more equitable region, GCF’s Senior Program Officer Michael Coffey shares: “We must propose solutions based on a shared understanding of the problem, of how racism is built into our system. Only then we can achieve real impact and change.”

GCF, like many in our region, is on our own equity journey and is committed to continue learning, sharing and addressing what history books in school failed to teach us. Indeed, our learnings from Racial Equity Matters have informed each part of our organization: from communications to grantmaking, from human resources to vendor relationships and beyond.

We are excited to offer Racial Equity Matters again in 2021 and invite you, your colleagues and your neighbors to join us. Together, we can make a difference.

Sign up for our mailing list to learn when our Q1 2021 schedule is available here.


Mission Minute

Tom Shepherd, Chief Executive Officer of Shepherd Material Science, takes a minute to explain the importance of Racial Equity Matters. View his video here.

The racial divide is arguably the greatest thing holding America back,” Shepherd said. “Racial Equity Matters is one of the most profound, world view, mind growing experiences I’ve ever had.”