What If You Made Racial Healing a Personal Passion?
By Rev. Aliah K. MaJon, PhD
The concept of racial healing is not new; we’ve been working on attaining it — and on learning how to embrace each other — for over 50 years now here in this country. Have we made progress? Of course. Even considerable progress, if we look back at how things were regarding the racial divide before the historical Civil Rights Movement and compare it to how things are today.
But the job isn’t done; we can still:
- Go far beyond just legislating positive change around race to genuinely embodying it
- Look in the mirror to discover how we may unknowingly be feeding the racial divide
- Come together with others to share deep examination and collective transformation
- Dedicate our best thinking to uncovering what needs to be done utilizing a Brain Trust
- Become passionate about this work, and step into leadership roles to really get it done!
For many years, The Shift Network has been offering the Summer of Peace Summit, and the exciting theme this year is “Finding Common Ground.” It was a great honor and blessing to be asked to take part in this 3-day event, in which I am featured as a change-maker along with my friend and colleague, Brandon Finlay. For my contribution to this extremely worthwhile theme, I must start by saying that I believe that common ground means "common work" and becoming partners in our collective healing.
Also, the moment that I said yes to this invitation, I noticed that something started happening within me. My Inner Teacher began speaking to me about my personal responsibility, and how this work is a big part of my destiny. In fact, I’m smiling widely right now because my still small voice actually got a little louder regarding this.
And it is clear to me that there was nothing small about talking about racial healing. In fact, what I typically experience as soft whispers of wisdom or insight left all the quietness behind, and expressed itself as resounding, emphatic, and persistent! I was told to not only talk about my ideas and views regarding racial healing — what I heard was that I was to literally conceive of a project to anchor the next level of work. SO here is the vision of what I came up with:
The R.A.C.E. Project:
R. = Reconciliation through...
A. = Action Steps
C. = Community-Building &
E. = Examination of Self
I envision “The R.A.C.E. Project” as a voluntary, grassroots, higher-consciousness-focused, spiritually-grounded initiative in which a diverse group of creative, passionate, and effective people carry out the work of dissolving racial barriers. At least, that is my current vision. The whole idea behind an initiative like this is for people to take ownership of it, and to fully embrace the work by bringing their ideas to bear on what we will do together. In other words, this is not something that I am to be the author of, nor is it already in existence. Instead, it is an Invitation to YOU to join me if you are called to do so, with me playing the key role of guiding and organizing a “Brain Trust” that will allow us to facilitate and grow a deeper examination of race — starting with ourselves — where we can begin to bridge, heal, and transform the racial divide in our lives.
Again, I can’t stress enough that we will do this because we choose to, not because it is forced upon us. It is to be a collective endeavor in which everyone is a leader and a valued contributor. This is more than mere buy-in; we are to proceed with a team mindset and open hearts, and constantly find ways to unify our intentions and think together.
To break down the essential messages of The R.A.C.E. Project, and explain what it means in terms of the proposed work and philosophy, I’ll define each letter in the acronym:
- The “R” stands for reconciliation, which is inspired by the principles of “Truth & Reconciliation,” where people show up telling the truest truth after some harm has been done. This act of truth-telling establishes the foundation for healing and forgiving and people changing their ways.
- The next letter of “A” stands for Action Steps, because this work will have a clear requirement to not merely talk about and/or intellectually discuss what is keeping us apart; instead we will hold each other accountable for tangible action steps and impacting others.
- Next, the all-important “C” stands for “Community Building” to represent that people agreeing to do this as a group is the whole point, and that a Brain Trust is many individuals thinking together as collaborative change agents.
- And, lastly, we are invited to commit to the final letter of “E”, which sets this particular work apart from other efforts; nothing will take place unless and until we are willing to deeply “examine” our own selves — and that means ALL OF US — no matter our racial identity.
If we agree to do this, we must be clear about one very important thing: there will be no victims or villains in this process, just people intent upon really getting to the bottom of what has plagued us all in this racially troubled country, in this so-called democracy and beautifully diverse place that has been masquerading as a beacon of freedom and equality.
We will ask ourselves deep questions, and compassionately answer them together, such as:
- How have I been programmed to think about racial difference?
- How can I become conscious of those messages and begin to reverse them?
- Where do we start in a process like this, without anger, accusations, embarrassment, or guilt?
- Why is it critical to look at our thoughts, fears, shortcomings, and our own secret needs?
Lastly, let me end by saying that I sincerely hope that I am not the only person hearing the “call” that I am describing here. As an African American woman of baby boomer age, it has been a lonely and sometimes risky journey that I have been happy to take, even when I was one of the only people that was willing to go there. Mostly because I’ve always been committed to loving and reaching for others and not hating and giving up on people who may have skin of a different color or whose culture is not like mine. My heart has shown me the way and constantly grown my skill for navigating the icky-ness.
Also, I must share that I specifically invited a white male millennial to join me on my Summer of Peace interview, because it is my belief that if I want bridge-building to take place that I must model it myself and become an example. Brandon stepped up because he felt the need to do this work as well, and it goes without saying that he didn’t have to. Neither of us has to do this work, but from his place of what is called privilege as a white male, it is definitely a choice. People often talk about how much we need each other to bring forth racial healing; well, needing each other is one thing, but being vulnerable with, and becoming accountable to each other, is quite another.
So I am reaching out to you with this article and these words from my heart of hearts. I am asking you to come and join me to help make all of of our lives better as we build bridges, grow new ways of being together, and jointly create a brighter collective destiny. It is my wish, and perhaps it is your wish as well, that our work will make the racial divide between us finally disappear, never ever to return again. Please listen inside to your Inner Voice for your answer.
Founder of the Next 50 Years Project, Rev. Dr. Aliah K. MaJon is a consummate professional who empowers both youth and adults to determine their own destiny and confidently step into leadership roles. She specializes in demystifying human improvement, and proudly holds a trademark for a 7-step process called SOUL TECHNOLOGY® that outlines what it takes to turn one’s life around. A product of inner-city Detroit and a mother who lost her only child to suicide, Dr. Aliah enthusiastically teaches that self-examination and constantly updating your vision for the future must go hand-in-hand.
In the Los Angeles area, Dr. Aliah is currently a partner to the LAPD’s Community Relationship Division, and has worked extensively with Days of Dialogue, the Martin Luther King Legacy Association (Youth Leadership Academy), and designed innovative projects for Youth Opportunities Unlimited’s after-school programs in partnership with the Intel Corp. In the Bay Area, she has been a principal consultant for VCUSD’s Youth Justice Programs, trained high schools students to run Youth Court, and served as a principal for PROJECT RESTORE and the Positive Youth Justice Initiative, which was supported by the Sierra Health Foundation.
In Dr. Aliah’s work with the LAPD’s Community Relationship Division, she supports youth leaders — and adults — to create solutions for police-involved violence. Her approach is based on the “Brain Trust” model, where those who shape society engage the “thinking” and insights from experts regarding the problem — and in the case of the loss of life that is happening around policing, she feels that BOTH citizens and law enforcement are the needed experts!
Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.
This article appears in: 2018 Catalyst, Issue 15: Finding Common Ground - Summer of Peace