National Conference for Community and Justice encouraging conversations about race

In Black and White

(WGHP) — Over the last year, in cities across America, there’s been a reckoning with race. People are talking about it in a way that we haven’t seen since the civil rights movement.

The National Conference for Community and Justice, or NCCJ, has been leading conversations on race in the Piedmont-Triad since 1937.

When we talked to NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad Executive Director Ivan Canada last summer, he said: “I think people are wanting something to do. I think in this moment we all are starting to realize what has been happening to people in this country, especially people of color, Black people in various systems.”

Since then, NCCJ’s 8:46 series led people through training to get them to begin to think about racism that plays out around them. Recently they hosted “The Story of Race: How We Got Here and What We Can Do About It.”

“We wanted the second part to really be sort of hands-on. That people are walking away from these webinars to be able to have one or two things that they can actually put into practice that will begin to do something differently within their organizations or within their community,” Canada said.

After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, they led a three-part series on community policing and where do we go from here.

“It’s been a year of awareness for a lot of people,” Canada said. “So I think those are people who maybe before were sitting on the sidelines and maybe felt like this isn’t stuff I need to be thinking about. Issues of race don’t come up in my life.”

“I think to begin to discuss that I needed a sense of what are some guidelines,” said Melanie Wodard. “What are some things I need to know about myself that get in the way? and what are some ways I can be a better listener and actually be willing to ask questions that are hard to ask sometimes.”

Woodard got answers through NCCJ. She says it’s uncomfortable but necessary to take the risk that comes with talking about race.

“Honestly, it’s me as a white person, if I can say that. White people have to talk about this stuff. We have to not go that’s somebody else’s issue. And we have to be willing to say how do we get underneath our cultural stuff we’ve just soaked in over the years to really get at the heart of what is happening, why we care, what we can do.”

Canada says he’s seen a lot of progress. But he also believes the issues of injustice and racial inequality aren’t going to be fixed this year, or next year.

“If nothing else, I think people have learned some history and some truths that maybe they didn’t know before. They’ve learned that the way I’ve looked at the world may be vastly different than a neighbor of mine that lives on the other side of town looks at the world. And that’s progress.”

NCCJ’s big program is called Anytown. It’s a residential camp for high school juniors and seniors. The students spend a week focusing on learning from people who come from different backgrounds. they couldn’t do the residential portion last summer, but it’s back this year. There are still some openings. You can get more information here.

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