WITF announced that it will host a series of YouTube Live conversations focused on systemic racism in Pennsylvania and beyond. Six conversations over the next twelve weeks will offer the community a safe platform to learn, share experiences and ask questions about topics such as institutional racism, Black trauma and mental health, housing discrimination, education disparities, policing, and health care inequality.
The series launches Thursday, June 18 with “Toward Racial Justice: A Conversation on Systemic Racism.” The program will explore the roots of institutional racism, how it manifests, and what we can collectively do as a community to change the system to effect positive, lasting change.
WITF, the PBS and NPR member station for south central Pennsylvania, has a history of convening the community for tough conversations on racism. In the spring of 1968, racial tensions were high, the nation reeled from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the community was rallying for policies to end de facto segregation in public schools. WITF produced the four-part television documentary series “A Time to Act” and held community forums to facilitate respectful discussion about racism in our region and beyond.
“Public media is here for every person,” explains Ron Hetrick, WITF’s President and CEO. “WITF shares the vision of a world without racism and systemic racial injustice. We are honored to provide the media platforms that support our neighbors talking to each other, hearing new perspectives, and learning that we do not share the same life experiences. We are grateful to our co-organizers and host for working with WITF to fulfill our mission of strengthening our community through civil discourse.”
WITF called upon a diverse organizing committee of community members to provide ideas and feedback for the conversations. Major Kristal M. Turner-Childs, director of the Bureau of Forensic Services for the Pennsylvania State Police, and a WITF Board Member, serves on the organizing committee. Speaking on behalf of the committee, she said, “We are proud to work with WITF to call our neighbors together, to elevate underrepresented voices. Our objective is to help serve as a catalyst for change by bringing people together to discuss possible solutions and inspire collective action.”
The committee knew that for the conversation series to be successful, the tone must remain respectful, civil and forward facing. For that, they turned to seasoned advocacy expert and radio host Charles Ellison. Charles Ellison is the executive producer & host of “Reality Check” on WURD in Philadelphia, the only Black-owned talk radio station in Pennsylvania. “A contributing editor to myriad regional and national publications, as well as a weekly co-host on the nationally syndicated ‘Keepin’ it Real with Reverend Al Sharpton,’ Ellison provides the tenor and experience to guide these conversations to their fullest potential,” explained Hetrick.
“We can no longer limit ourselves to simplistic, and sometimes trivial, conversations about race,” said Charles Ellison. “What we must do, now, is convene and follow through with open all-hands-on-deck discussions about racism. Define it, dissect it, and, ultimately, dismantle it. That responsibility falls on all of us, beneficiaries and victims, members of a broader community we all live and coexist in. What we see now is an unsustainable construct of rampant inequality and systemic oppression allowed to fester for too long. The incentive is to fix this before we all fall apart. In this series, we’re facilitating a safe and civil space to tackle that task head on.”
The first conversation in the “Toward Racial Justice” series will take place Thursday, June 18 at 7:00 p.m. on WITF’s YouTube channel. Panelists joining Charles Ellison for the discussion include Armenta Hinton, Ph.D., vice president of inclusion and diversity at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, Jamiel L. Alexander, community organizer & national activist and Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed, racial justice coordinator at YWCA York.
The community is encouraged to submit questions and share personal experiences at [email protected] or by using #RacialJusticePA on their preferred social media platform. Updated event information is at witf.org/events.