GCF workshops offer revealing lessons
As part of our special report on the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Groundwater Racial Equity Workshops, we feature stories of people who lived through the trainings and their responses. This is the first in this series.
READ THE FULL SPECIAL REPORT: Diving into the Groundwater: Exploring the Depths of Racism.
As a professional in the field of corporate philanthropy, Sunny Reelhorn Parr was aware of the issues of racial disparities and was motivated to speak up.
But attending racial equity workshops offered by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation has been both eye-opening and empowering for her.
Parr is one of more than 2,000 people from Greater Cincinnati who, since 2019, have participated in one of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s racial equity issues, presented by bi3, Groundwater trainings. Groundwater is a program of the Racial Equity Institute in Greensboro, North Carolina, a nonprofit founded to help create more equitable institutions and challenge
assumptions about race. The Greater Cincinnati Foundation has embraced the program as a key part of its initiative, Racial Equity Matters.
“No prior training or education compares to what the Racial Equity Institute has brought to Cincinnati,” says Parr. “For me, Racial Equity Matters, at its core, goes much further than previous training in the history of the breed. It explores systems of inequity and enables people to better understand society and learn much more about racial inequalities. “
The Groundwater program is an in-depth dive into historical data on income and socio-economic mobility to examine why some of the fundamental concepts of our society – education, health care and criminal justice, among them – are brought to light. balances with black people and other people of color.
In 2020, the Racial Equity Matters program was presented virtually eight times to the community.
The groundwater is followed by a training called Phase 1, which is usually a two-day session in a small group that involves more dialogue and interaction among the participants. Parr participated in both, before the pandemic.
“I have been able to meet in person other business leaders, education leaders and others who care deeply about the issue,” she says. “It was such a great mix of community representatives, who spent two days learning and growing. It’s a big commitment, but I learned so much.
Sessions go beyond data and present windows into the experiences of others – insights that can create discomfort for some participants.
Parr says she experienced some of this discomfort during the workshops. “I felt like I had a good understanding, but I learned a lot and immersed myself completely in the content,” she says. “Overall, the experience has really changed me and the way I approach my professional role in leading corporate philanthropy as well as in personal conversations with
neighbors of my community.
She feels that she has grown personally and professionally as a result of these experiences. “Professionally, I’ve applied it in so many of my conversations, in much of what I run at the Kroger Co. Foundation office,” she says. Earlier this month, the Kroger Co. Foundation announced $ 3 million in grants to four organizations working to build more equitable communities.
“My professional work to support racial equality in communities across the country was not what I originally signed up for. And while it’s a challenge, I couldn’t imagine it any other way in today’s environment, ”she says.
Personally, the experiences made her think about herself and her husband’s young son. “How can we properly inform and educate our son on the history of our country? And further, how can we inspire him – above all else – to be himself and to uplift everyone around him?
Parr says she looks forward to participating in REI’s Phase II workshop, which examines internalized racial perspectives and how these affect outcomes in our work and family lives.
“Especially with the recent racial unrest this summer, the narrative continues to build,” she said. “I am committed to continuing on my path of listening and learning to help be the change I want to see in this country.”
This special report on racial equity issues presented by bi3 has been made possible with support from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.