Dialogue Newsletter | May – August 2014

May – August 2014

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Thank you all for 25 years;we have much to celebrate

By Cherry Steinwender

To all of the people who played a role in getting us to 25 years, I want to thank you. I wish it were possible to visit each of you and look into your faces and your eyes and just say “THANK YOU.”

Looking back over the last 25 years, I see there is so much for us to celebrate.

  • We can celebrate the 25-year survival of the Center.
  • We can celebrate the education we have provided to citizens of this country as well as the education we provided to delegations that enter the USA through the State Department from many countries in Europe, South America, Africa, Sri Lanka, and Slovenia.
  • We can celebrate the ways we have changed the lives of many by aiding in their healing.
  • We can celebrate being listed in “One America for the 21st Century,” a study of Race called for by President Bill Clinton
  • We can celebrate being listed as one of the top 22 organizations out of 184 profiled by “Center for Living Democracy.”
  • We can celebrate all of the personal journeys of facing racial conditioning, turning it into strength and empowerment.
  • We can celebrate all of our members, friends, donors, board members, Co-Directors, facilitators, and all volunteers who aided in giving the Center for the Healing of Racism such a long life.
  • We can celebrate love, the love that has kept us going.
  • We can celebrate all of humanity that abandoned the fear of looking at racism, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, and made a commitment to  doing something to change the face of the world.
  • We can celebrate; we should celebrate our leading the way in having the tough conversations; a new way to achieve dialogue.

My freedom summer filled with knowledge, wisdom and understanding

By Christina Ligon 2014 Intern

I was informed that an internship is required in order to graduate with a social science degree this year from the University of Houston Downtown.

In choosing where to complete this education requirement, The Center for the Healing of Racism seemed like a great choice. At the completion of the interview with Cherry Steinwender, who greeted me with a warm smile and robustly charming personality, I realized that this was not just an internship opportunity, but also the freedom to receive the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of how to cultivate, organize, and execute my humanitarian aspirations.

The knowledge and passion put behind the development of each of the Center’s workshops contributes to its value as a knowledge resource. The impact of healthy change and unmasking the hidden effects of racism on people and society is a continual process. The recognition of what racism looks like and its current lasting effects on a l l people in society contributes to its healing process.

Observing not only the content, but the delivery of these workshops to students of various ages is inspirational. The look of the light bulb going off about a sensitive subject, followed by smiles continues to make this cause relevant to the younger generations.

The wisdom and experience about the historical establishment of racism is a valuable resource in understanding how to heal from its damage. I look forward to helping the Center and Ms. Steinwender beyond the conclusion of this internship. I sincerely appreciate the freedom to expand my knowledge and explore a life calling.

Center receives gift of love

From Michael Greene and Bill Hultquist

The gifts arrived in our office on July 7, 2014, delivered from Santa Fe, NM by Bill Bartelloni, pictured with Cherry at right.

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Bill and I are very happy to donate to the Center for the Healing of Racism two beautiful signed pieces of original sculpture in gratitude for the extraordinary work the Center does and has done for many years to heal the illness of racism.

WE ARE ALSO most grateful for the myriad ways that the Center for the Healing of Racism has helped to transform our lives. The two pieces are works by African American artist, Dr. Clifton Pearson, Professor Emeritus of the University of Montevallo. He has served as an art professor at several Alabama universities and has earned numerous accolades for his beautiful art, both ceramic sculpture and glass art. His art is displayed in several Alabama museums.

I CONTACTED Dr. Pearson to inquire about the current value of these pieces. Dr. Pearson responded by phone on June 6, 2014, informing us that the “Celebrated Figure,” is valued at about $2,500 and the sculptural “bowl” is valued at about $250. The book, printed in France by the NALL Foundation, is out of print and is worth approximately $150. Dr. Pearson did not speculate on its value, but copies in very good condition sell on average by Amazon for this price. Also, Dr. Pearson personally signs the book in several places.

I ENCLOSED, with the book, the invitation to the art show where these pieces were purchased. The pieces probably were created in late 2002 or early 2003.

I HOPE THAT members of the Center for the Healing of Racism will enjoy these beautiful pieces of art and book as we have. This is an unrestricted gift, so they certainly may be sold to raise revenues for the Center, if you so choose.

THANK YOU FOR the fine work that you do, and it is our sincere hope that you will enjoy these works. With sincerest gratitude, Michael Greene and Bill Hultquist Note: The Board will be looking into the best way to turn this gift into much needed money for the Center.

Returning to Houston and to the Center

Member wants to ensure organization remains viable in order to help eliminate racism

By Carol Petrucci

opportunity to return to Houston this year for the Center’s annual Juneteenth Luncheon. I saw so many familiar faces who remembered me. It is so gratifying to know that the Center is still doing such important work and that so many people are still involved.

I have been involved with the Center for 16 years now. In 1998 my husband got a job offer in Houston. Frank found us an apartment and lived here while I stayed back in Wisconsin to finish up with the house and packing. Our plan was for me to drive to Chicago where Frank would meet me at his parents’ house and we would drive together to Houston with our cat and dog.

On the evening of June 7, I was saying a final farewell to the teens I had been working with for the last two years. They threw me a farewell cookout at a local park and it was both a very happy and very sad time. While I was at the park, Frank called me. He was pretty upbeat but it seemed unusual for him to be calling at that time. He asked me about the route I had planned for us. When I asked him why, he told me he wanted to stick to major highways because something had happened in Jasper, Texas last night but not to worry. He would not tell me what it was because I was with the kids. Later that night, I found out about the horrible murder of James Byrd. This was my introduction to my new home.

The “James Byrd incident,” as it came to be called, was particularly troubling for me because I was very unfamiliar with the South and I am considered to be “Caucasian” and my husband is considered to be “Black.” I say “considered to be” because I do not believe that humans are of different races— but lots of other people still do.

So we drove to Houston without encountering problems. In fact, in our 12 years in Texas we had very few issues regarding our perceived differences. But I did not know this at the time and I needed friends that understood what I felt.

This is how I found the Center for the Healing of Racism. The organization appealed to me on so many levels. I am a person who likes to take things head on. This includes my own insecurities and issues. I have come to discover that it is very fulfilling and enriching to confront injustices rather than just sit back and complain. I was an active participant in protesting Apartheid in South Africa and had often been the only “White” person working in low-income public housing communities. My husband is a remarkable human being and for me to be his partner, I have had to deal directly with my own issues regarding race, ethnicity, culture, prejudices, upbringing and being able to realize that there are differences between us. We work hard to respect and nurture one another and it has been so rewarding.

Using the term racism rather than diversity was important to me. It gets right to the heart of the matter. Diversity doesn’t harm people. There is no need to change diversity in oneself or others. Racism, on the other hand, was created by humans to harm. The Center supports the elimination of racism by honoring the experiences of all human beings . To me , eliminating racism is the best way possible to honor diversity. So during my very first week in Houston, I called the Center to see if I could do some volunteer work. Cherry Steinwender met with me that day and we have been friends ever since. I have attended Dialogue: Racism more than once and later trained to conduct Dialogue. I did a number of presentations with Cherry and other members of the Center. I’ve attended movie and video screenings and discussions that have to my knowledge and understanding of the complexity of racism and how it affects all human beings.

Most importantly, I found a network of people who share a deep common bond of understanding that all people are valuable and that we share many more similarities than differences. The people I have met added through the Center understand that it is the social construct of racism that keeps us apart and that separatism is encouraged and supported by powerful interests. Racism is a disease and it can be healed.

Even though I live in Washington, D.C., my husband and I continue to support the Center with our money and our time. It is important for us to continue to be part of the work and this community. Knowing that the Center for the Healing of Racism and its members are continuing to learn and grow and share their experiences with others is so important to me. Someone else might need the kind of support I did and I want to do whatever I can to make sure that we are there for them. Thank you to everyone for your commitment to healing racism.

My husband is a remarkable human being and for me to be his partner, I have had to deal directly with my own issues regarding race, ethnicity, culture, prejudices, upbringing and being able to realize that there are differences between us. We work hard to respect and nurture one another and it has been so rewarding.

Acceptance speeches of 2014 Ally Award honorees

Accepting on behalf of the William L. Garrison family: Kate Lange, great, great, great granddaughter

I am so pleased to be here to accept this honor for my great, great, great grandfather, William Lloyd Garrison.

That’s a lot of greats. William Lloyd Garrison once said, “Wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or complexion.” Well said.

I love that although his words were often fiery and deeply controversial, he believed fervently in moral persuasion and in nonviolence.

Like everyone, I grew up with stories about family members, mostly about people I know and a few about long distant ones. One of these stories tells of WLG being locked in a Boston jail cell to protect him from an angry mob, intent on lynching him. In learning a little more about his life, I learned that he also was denounced by some people within the abolitionist community for his inclusion of women and women’s voices in his work. Both of these actions are evidence to me of his wonderful obstinacy about the worth of all people. There is great pride in having a family member who spoke up so loudly and so clearly for the rights of others, who put the truth of the essential dignity of all humans before his own safety.

But mixed in with this grand story are smaller more personal ones, the ones about sitting in the kitchen because others in the party were not allowed in the dining room, the ones about befriending new-comers to town though no one else would, the ones about treating people as people every day.

If there is a legacy that I hope to pass onto my children, it is this: that the smallest acts matter—of standing with others, of speaking up, of seeing the dignity and power of each person who crosses their paths.

I’m certain that were he alive today, WLG would be a firm and resolute ally to the Center for the Healing of Racism, to strive for the most basic of civil rights, for all to be treated first as a human being.

Thank you so much for including me in this celebration.

Accepting on behalf of St. Agnes Academy: Diana Turney, teacher

It is such a privilege to accept this award on behalf of St. Agnes Academy and to have had the opportunity to teach the class.

Healing Racism began 20 years ago with Sr. Leigh Ebbesmeyer. The Dominican sisters of Houston had gone through the Dialogue: Racism program together and Sr. Leigh immediately recognized the need to bring it to our campus. With Cherry’s help she began to create the class, which is modeled on the Dialogue Racism workshop.

Students spend the semester growing in understanding of the different kinds of racism, its impact on society and their own lives. Armed with that information, students can begin to find ways to be allies and work to reduce racism.

Michael Greene took the course over from Leigh when she moved and he really solidified it. Under his leadership, the class won recognition for the Anti – Defamation League. I am the fourth teacher to facilitate the course and none of it would be possible without Cherry and the Center for the Healing of Racism. I would like to share with you just a couple of statements made by students who have recently taken the course:

  • I struggled a lot to see people as people and not as their ethnicity. It was hypocritical of me to see only color and difference when I get offend when people see me as only Asian. Through this class I’ve gotten better at really seeing people. I’m still learning and evolving in my open-mindedness.
  • In this class I was offered an environment in which the sensitive topic of race can be discussed without the fear of negative reactions. Instead, we were offered a platform of logical discussion, able to contribute to the conversation. This class challenged my assumptions on race and the impact race has on one’s treatment in society. It opened my eyes to the progress we’ve made as a nation while also highlighting what more we must do in order to establish true equality.

IT IS BECAUSE OF the Center’s partnership with St. Agnes that this experience has been possible. Cherry has mentored each of teachers of the class, starting with the Dialogue: Racism series but then working with each of us one-on-one. She has committed to working with the students with the course as well. She has come to the class five to six times every semester for 20 years. She teaches, laughs with and challenges the students to explore their racial conditioning. She has not shied away from any tough question and has a way of speaking truth without condemnation. She has provided speakers and resources and has helped me every step of the way. Most importantly, she has been my friend and I cannot thank her enough for her love and support over the years. The students love her as much as I do. It is truly an honor to be recognized as an ally for the Center of the Healing of Racism.

Accepting on behalf of the Houston Peace and Justice Center: Peggy & Dave Atwood

We accept this award on behalf of the Houston Peace and Justice Center (HPJC). HPJC has been collaborating with the Center for the Healing of Racism t o promote the concept of the Beloved Community espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the Beloved Community, all persons are respected regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. No one lives in poverty and disagreements are resolved non violently. We are all striving to create the Beloved Community, and we must continue to do so in the future.

We want to thank the Center for the Healing of Racism for another thing that we have been working on in the last year—the problem of mass incarceration in Texas. I became aware of this problem after attending a program by the CFHR which featured work of Michelle Alexander who wrote the ground-breaking book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Thank you for this award.

Accepting on behalf of Holocaust Museum Houston: Kelly J. Zúñiga, Ed.D., Executive Director

I wish to thank you for honoring HMH at the lovely Center for the Healing of Racism 2014 Ally Award ceremony and 25th Anniversary. I so enjoyed meeting the other honorees along with your many faithful supporters. I did not realize the long history of the organization—it is quite impressive! How fortunate your members are to have Cherry Steinwender as one of your founders. Since 1989, the Center has worked to create a safe and accepting environment in which people can explore issues of racism, recognize manifestations of racism, examine assumptions and beliefs about racism, understand the impact of racism on themselves and others, and receive the support and encouragement to begin the healing process. It is a mission not unlike our Museum’s own.

Since our opening in 1996, we h ave been dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the six million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors’ legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, we have shared your battle to teach the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy that remain in our world. The Holocaust serves as a vivid backdrop in teaching the destructive power of prejudice and the importance of moral courage and our individual responsibility to stand up against injustice. By bringing history to life, we work every day to highlight parallels to modern society that allow students to learn what happened in the past and how to prevent it from happening again. Our 27,000-square-foot facility includes exhibition spaces, a theater, classrooms, a library, a memorial room and a garden dedicated to the children lost in the Holocaust. Our multidimensional programs show that the lessons we can learn from that era remain relevant today.

WITH THOUGHT-provoking films, world-class speakers and discussions with survivors and scholars, we ask our visitors to challenge themselves. If we are not to be victims, then our only choices are to be perpetrators of evil and injustice, indifferent bystanders who allow it to exist or rescuers and up-standers who act to end it. We ask them: What will you be? And we help them learn what being an up-stander means.

The Center has proven itself to be an up-stander, and we are honored to be so recognized for our own efforts. On behalf of the Board of Trustees of Holocaust Museum Houston, please accept our thanks for all you do in our community.

I look forward to many future opportunities that we can actively collaborate—in order to fight the evils of violence, racism, and apathy. Thank you for this very special honor. Holocaust Museum Houston will always have a special relationship with the fine people involved with your mission.

Warmest regards.

The Holocaust serves as a vivid backdrop in teaching the destructive power of prejudice and the importance of moral courage and our individual responsibility to stand up against injustice.

Comment on the 25th anniversary celebration

Executive Board Member and Foot Solider,Debra Jones

The 25th Anniversary of the Center for the Healing of Racism was very impressive! Meeting Cherry Steinwender started a new calling in my life to work toward the healing of racism. I call it a “calling” because after six years of being a grassroots political activist for President Obama, I needed new direction. While making phone calls and knocking on doors, I kept hearing this disturbing drum beat of racism and otherness. I had to report a couple of calls to the United States Secret Service. I believe racism can be healed one person at a time. I want to learn how to facilitate this process.

I have participated in Dialogue: Racism with Cherry Steinwender and other board members. I chose the Center because it’s a safe place to process racism, a place where we can strive for Oneness in this world.

As Fannie Lou Hamer sang, “This Little Light of Mine. I’m going to let it shine.”

“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shinneth more and more until the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).

Spread the word :