Recent events in the United States have laid bare the stark reality of systemic racism. Across the country, people are signaling a new urgency to confronting the racial inequality that exists in our communities. In keeping with our Catholic mission to uphold the dignity of every human person and to advance the common good, the University of St. Thomas has launched the Racial Justice Initiative to help drive meaningful reform and change. The initiative is led by Dr. Yohuru Williams and focuses on supporting racial justice education, facilitating research, exploring community partnerships, and encouraging dialogue and critical conversations. A noted scholar of the civil rights and Black power movement, an education activist and frequent national commentator, Dr. Williams is an important voice on the topics of race and social justice. This new initiative creates a platform for him to accelerate that work with the full support of the university. The Racial Justice Initiative will work collaboratively with individuals and organizations already engaged in the essential work of helping to reimagine a future for the Twin Cities free from racial disparities. The work of the initiative will be shared widely and aspires to be a model for how other communities begin these efforts. together, UNITED WE ACT.
HISTORICAL RECOVERY AS THE PATHWAY TO JUSTICE For racial justice to truly take hold, we must first understand the historical roots of the injustices that have contributed to the present moment. For many of us, this will be different from the history we learned in school. Dr. Williams focuses on this historical recovery and how it can illuminate the underpinnings of racism and offer insight into new interventions aimed at dismantling harmful systems.
The Racial Justice Initiative is centered on the process of historical
recovery as a foundational step to making change and eradicating barriers. The primary focus will be adult education. By educating community members on
historical recovery, we can engage in critical conversations to begin sharing best practices and addressing community issues.
“Dismantling racism is one way that St. Thomas is fulfilling its Catholic commitment to ensuring the dignity of every human being. Through the Racial Justice Initiative and Dr. Williams’ leadership and ability to unite people, we are
“With the moment in front of us now, there is a tremendous opportunity to see the Twin Cities as a laboratory for change. Here in Minnesota, if we can think creatively, engage broadly, and partner with humility concerning the work we must all do together, we can make a big impact.” – Dr. Yohuru Williams
committed to driving meaningful change in our community.”
– Dr. Julie Sullivan
DR. Yohuru Dr. Yohuru Williams is Distinguished University Chair and Professor of History and Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dr. Williams received his Ph.D. from Howard University in 1998.
Dr. Williams is the author, editor, and co-editor of eight books including Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights Black Power and Black Panthers in New Haven (Blackwell, 2006), Rethinking the Black Freedom Movement (Routledge, 2015), Teaching U.S. beyond the Textbook: Six Investigative Strategies (Corwin Press, 2008) and The Black Panthers: Portraits of an Unfinished Revolution (Nation Books, 2016). Dr. Williams has appeared on a variety of local and national radio and television programs and was featured in the Ken Burns PBS documentary “Jackie Robinson,” the Stanley Nelson PBS documentary “The Black Panthers” and the History Channel docuseries “The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen.” Dr. Williams’ scholarly articles have appeared in the American Bar Association’s Insights on Law and Society, the Organization of American Historians’ Magazine of History, The Black Scholar, the Journal of Black Studies, Pennsylvania History, Delaware History, the Journal of Civil and Human Rights and the Black History Bulletin.
THE WORK OF THE
HISTORICAL RECOVERY AND STEPS FORWARD FOR TWIN CITIES LEADERS AND BEYOND St. Thomas is taking a leadership role in working with companies and other
organizations that desire to learn about historical recovery and issues of racial justice. Dr. Yohuru Williams is uniquely qualified and welcomes the opportunity to speak to large groups, as well as work with organizations in finding ways they can make a meaningful impact in the Twin Cities community. EDUCATING THE PUBLIC THROUGH SPEAKER SERIES An engaging community-facing speaker series, hosted both in-person and virtually, will be a critical part of the Racial Justice Initiative as we begin to educate the greater community about African American history as a foundational step to learning, making change and eradicating barriers. Dr. Williams will lead the series and include other experts in the field and community.
ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY THROUGH DIALOGUE AND PARTNERSHIPS
Once the community has participated in the process of historical recovery, the critical conversations can begin. The Racial Justice Initiative will convene community members to share best practices and develop potential partnerships surrounding housing, education, social justice, health care and more.
CREATING STUDENT EXPERIENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES Dismantling the long history of systemic racism will be hard and will require thoughtful, collaborative and sustained effort. There is much work ahead to address the racial inequalities that exist around criminal justice,
education, health care, jobs and wealth creation. Yet, these are efforts we have a responsibility to undertake. The Racial Justice Initiative will engage students in this important work. Through research projects and service-learning experiences, students will see themselves in these critical issues and ultimately begin to bring about change in their own lives and the community.
DEVELOPING FACULTY Faculty members are powerful
researchers and instructors. They have the ability to develop influential ideas through their scholarly work and infuse critical concepts surrounding racial justice into their classrooms. The Racial Justice Initiative will proactively support and sponsor opportunities for faculty to grow their work and make meaningful intersections across all disciplines.
SUPPORTING SCHOLARSHIPS Scholarships are the number one priority at St. Thomas – and a tangible way to work toward racial justice. We are committed to keeping a St. Thomas education accessible to students and reducing their debt burdens. To support undergraduate and graduate students in greatest need and whose identities are underrepresented, we are generating even more support through the Racial Justice Initiative. Scholarships will also be available for students whose studies focus on racial and social justice. In addition, St. Thomas has established a new Racial Justice Scholarship.
part of the DON’T THINK YOU CAN’T BE
“Thank you Dr. Yohuru Williams for your excellent and thought-provoking session today, Simply Because People Refuse to See Me: How Racial Justice Can Inform Social, Educational and Employment Equity Needs Today. … We were proud to support this vital conversation.”
-Jeremy Podany, Founder and CEO, Career Leadership Collective
“Thank you for a wonderful presentation last week to Synchrony e change “Thank you so very much for all the time and energy
employees. Your materials and speech were thoughtful and very well-received. It was a great way to mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment. Best wishes to you and the Racial Justice Initiative.”
you put into enlightening and moving our senior leadership team. It was fabulous, powerful and so inspirational.”
-Brian Murray, CEO, Ryan Companies
– Michele Johnson, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Synchrony
ADDITIONAL RACIAL JUSTICE WORK AT ST. THOMAS
CONTINUING AND PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION (CAPE) EXECUTIVE EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT St. Thomas provides extensive educational opportunities to the public on a variety of topics, including the Becoming Human: Dismantling Racism series and other offerings focused on racial justice. Through CAPE, the university has the ability to offer customized trainings and learning modules.
SCHOOL OF LAW: CENTER ON RACE, LEADERSHIP AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
The Center fosters a robust exchange of ideas and practical strategies for advancing the common good. Through classroom instruction and community outreach, law students learn to leverage their legal training to address social justice challenges.
INTERPROFESSIONAL CENTER FOR COUNSELING AND LEGAL SERVICES (IPC)
A collaboration with the schools of Law, Psychology and Social Work, the IPC provides services and advocacy for underserved individuals and communities, as well as transformative educational experiences for students. DOUGHERTY FAMILY COLLEGE A two-year associate degree program for inspired students who want to obtain a four-year college degree and face financial or social obstacles on the way to their goal. Dougherty students benefit from a structured curriculum that includes leadership development, mentoring and internships. THREESIXTY JOURNALISM On-campus, multi-media summer journalism camps and school-year programming for diverse Minnesota high school students. Participants gain strong writing and reporting skills to tell the stories of their lives and communities.
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