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January 21, 2020, was the fourth annual National Day of Racial Healing. The day’s observance is rooted in the the need to heal and atone for hundreds of years of racial discrimination in this country, which is vital to attaining equity and justice going forward. In commemoration of this day, Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL) hosted a racial healing circle for our staff.

As a leading provider of reproductive health across Illinois, we understand that regardless of income, health disparities for people of color are disproportionately higher than their white counterparts by most measures of reproductive health. This includes HIV infection and STDs, as well as maternal and infant mortality. Because of these disparities, PPIL is committed to advancing racial equity and justice in everything we do. 

This important work is a big part of what I do as the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Specialist for PPIL.

I attended my first racial healing circle in late 2019, when Chicagoans working in the social sector came together to answer one specific question: “Who are you bringing into the room?” This simple question led to a wide ranging discussion, when folx opened up about where they were coming from physically and mentally, and in thinking about why they brought particular ancestors into the space.

While there, I began to understand why and how the racial healing framework is designed the way it is. Challenging ourselves to address the narratives we have internalized and to create new counter-narratives together, is essential to understanding the experiences of those who are different from us.  It’s also crucial to understand the urgency in advocating for inclusive and equitable laws and policies, so that we all may survive and thrive.

Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation (TRHT) Greater Chicago is one of 14 groups across the country supporting this kind of work. 

Founded in 2017, TRHT Greater Chicago’s mission is to help Chicagoland become “a region whose residents embrace racial healing and equity and reject the false construct of racial hierarchy.” Their framework relies on racial healing circles as a vital tool in building trust across Chicago communities and inspiring participants to advocate for equitable laws, policies, and practices that advance equity for communities that have been historically discriminated and excluded.

I left that first racial healing circle knowing I wanted to bring this tool PPIL. Before we can effectively address disparities in reproductive health care, we must first understand the past wounds and trauma that have created it. PPIL staff are on this mission together, to share our stories, advance equity, and continually work to expand sexual and reproductive well-being and autonomy for all.

I look forward to carrying the ideas expressed at PPIL’s racial day of healing with me throughout the year. For more information about Planned Parenthood of Illinois and the services we offer, visit www.ppil.org


Cassandra Solis is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist at Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Tags: Race, healing

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