RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. Coming on the backdrop of segregation in the Deep South, it was part of an effort by college students to take on the problem of desegregation on public transportation.
Now, Shaw University wants to continue the difficult work of talking about race, racism, and social justice.
“We have to lean into conversations and questions into human differences because we live in such an interrelated, global world today,” said Dean Johnny B. Hill, co-director of Shaw University’s Center for Racial and Social Justice.
He said the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 along with the recent shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, are interconnected.
“They speak to the problem of violence and inclusion and celebration of human difference,” he said.
He said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech regarding interconnections explains why social justice is important for everyone.
Courageous Community Conversations
After outcry of racial justice last summer, he said Shaw University’s Center for Racial and Social Justice partnered with the city of Raleigh to find ways to address social change. The two will host a series of talks called, Courageous Community Conversations. The end goal is to identify concrete policies and programs that can be introduced or modified to move the needle forward in the fight for social justice.
He said, for example, body cameras now worn by police in the city were a result of conversations on police transparency.
Topics will range from education, to policing, to environmental injustice.
Before those conversations take place, the university and city are asking the community what they think is important to address. A survey will go live on the school and city’s website on Thursday for the public to answer that. It was designed to be concise and to the point.
Hill said the survey isn’t just for them, it could also be used to prompt conversations around the dinner table with friends or family. He hopes communities can seize this moment to make a real difference for future generations.
“The essence of the moment is dialogue, conversations, leaning into the discomfort and the courage required to talk about the issues of human difference,” Hill said.
He said this is ultimately about helping to shape local communities to live together in peace. It’s not just about tolerance but recognizing that our strength is in our differences.
Social and racial justice, however, are not items to check off a list. Hill said they are persistent tasks to work on, a journey.
“It’s a persistent issue that is rooted in the very fabric of our nation. We can never escape the issue of race and because of the social conditions in our nation. We will always have to, in some ways, grapple with the issues of racism. At the same time, we can explore meaningful, concrete steps for minimizing its impacts in our present and the future.”