Aug 30, 2023 27 min read

Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation

Image of guest, Jerry Hawkins, with quote from transcript.

Episode 53, 42 min listen  

Join us as Jerry Hawkins shares what it means to imagine a radically inclusive Dallas and Fort Worth. Along the way, Jerry also talks about how his organization delivers on its mission of truth, racial healing, and transformation for the communities it serves.  


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Jerry Hawkins is the Executive Director of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (DTRHT), part of a national 14-place initiative by The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Dallas TRHT's mission is to create a radically inclusive city by addressing race and racism through narrative change, relationship building, and equitable policies and practices. Jerry is also a co-founder of The Imagining Freedom Institute (The IF Institute), a national research-based leadership group that helps organizations and institutions understand the historical context to contemporary issues of place, race and space. Jerry was formerly the Project Director of Bachman Lake Together for The Dallas Foundation and Zero To Five Funders Collaborative, an early childhood collective impact initiative in Dallas, and Director of Children's Services at the Wilkinson Center in East Dallas/Southeast Dallas.

Jerry is a 2022-2023 Independent Sector Bridging Fellow, a 2020-21 Presidential Leadership Scholar, a 2019 Leadership Arts Institute Fellow with the Business Council for the Arts, a Dallas County Historical Commission Member, a City of Dallas' City Plan Commission (CPC) Comprehensive Land Use Committee Appointee, serves on Dallas ISD’s Trustee-appointed Racial Equity Advisory Council and The Education Trust/ERS Resource Equity Working Group, and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas/PolicyLink/National Fund for Workforce Solutions 'Pathways to Work' Workforce Equity Advisory Council. Jerry also serves on the boards of Leadership ISD, Deep Vellum Books, AccessH2O and Young Leaders, Strong City. Jerry has been awarded PBS/KERA's American Graduate Champion in 2017, an Outstanding Child Advocate at CHILDREN AT RISK’s Texas Academy Awards of Child Advocacy in 2020, was a 2022 nominee for "Best Community Leader" by The Dallas Weekly, and was selected as one of the “Dallas 500 Most Powerful Business Leaders in North Texas” in 2021 and 2022 by D CEO/D Magazine. Jerry’s first editorial offering, A People’s History of Dallas, will be published in late 2024 by Deep Vellum Books. Jerry received his undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education and Child & Family Services from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and his Master's degree in Education from Northeastern Illinois University's Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. While living in Chicago, Jerry worked for Chicago Urban League and Chicago Public Schools.



Ame Sanders  00:00

This is the State of Inclusion Podcast, where we explore topics at the intersection of equity, inclusion, and community. In each episode, we meet people who are changing their communities for the better, and we discover actions that each of us can take to improve our own communities. I'm Ame Sanders. Welcome.

Today I'm happy to welcome Jerry Hawkins. Jerry is the executive director of the nonprofit, Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT). Welcome, Jerry.

Jerry Hawkins  00:12

Thank you for having me, Ame.

-About TRHT

Ame Sanders  00:13

You know, I have to say right off the bat, I'm really intrigued by the name of your organization: Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation. That is a big promise that you put out right there from the start. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about the organization, how it came to be, and how it is you decided to frame those three specific things.

Jerry Hawkins  00:36

Of course. Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation is initially part of a 14-place initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In 2016, Dr. Gail Christopher and other 200 community members, activists, organizers, scholars, and philanthropists, came together to study TRCs, or truth and reconciliation commissions, all over the world. Including those in Germany, Uganda, Canada, and most famously, South Africa after the brutal and racist regime of apartheid was over and Nelson Mandela was elected president. He did not want his country to continue in civil war.

So, he created a process with the help of many others, led by Bishop Desmond Tutu, a place where community members-- victimizers and victims--can receive community forgiveness, community support, and community amnesty by providing true testimony of what happened under this regime. After that truth-telling process occurred, community members were able to receive mental health support, social work support, and many other supports.

But Kellogg wanted to go a little bit further and decided that reconciliation is not this country's best path forward because there hasn't really been a truth-telling process nationwide in the United States. So, they created truth, racial healing, and transformation that go beyond the work of TRCs. They selected 14 places (13 cities in the state of Alaska) to undergo this pilot work of TRHT. Dallas was the last city chosen after the 2016 police shooting that really impacted the entire country, and every living President descended upon Dallas. So, that was TRHT.

Our mission is to create a radically inclusive Dallas and Fort Worth by addressing racism and race through the TRHT framework, which includes narrative change, relationship building, and equitable policies and practices. That's a little bit of background and what our mission is.

-TRHT In Practice

Ame Sanders  02:58

So, what does that look like in practice as you live that out in the community?

Jerry Hawkins  03:03

Sure. Well, the first TRHT principle is to have a complete and accurate history of what has happened in regard to race and racism in your own community. So, the first thing we had to do was a historical analysis of policy in place by race from indigenous times to the present, which took a lot of research--a lot of compiling of oral histories, written histories, anecdotal, primary, and secondary source material. But we have compiled that and started to share that in our new Community Vision for Dallas reports that are on our website.

We also have to do the second principle of TRHT, which is to create a shared and compelling, and measurable vision for the community we want to see after this process is over. So, we did a community visioning process, where we had evaluators come with us and talk to community members. The evaluators recorded thousands of anecdotal comments on the community's history, our shared history, but also having a community envision Dallas and Fort Worth without racism and what it'll look like, what it'll feel like, and what it'll take to get there and who would it take to get there. From that, collected statements, we got some themes, and we started our work.

So, now our work consists of our main programmatic initiative, which is the Racial Equity Now cohort. The Racial Equity Now cohort is a fellowship for organizations. Each organization that applies since a board member, an exec-level staff member, and direct-level staff member to a learning process where, in a 10-month span, they learn about the history of race and racism in Dallas and Fort Worth. They learn about racial healing practices. They learn about ways to transform their organization to be more equitable. Then they create a racial equity policy. They create a racial equity theory of change. And they create a racial equity program or project, and we fund it up to $10,000.

So far, we've had three classes graduate. We're in year four of that program. We've expanded to Fort Worth, and we've been replicated in Chicago. In Dallas and Fort Worth, so far, we've given away half a million dollars in grants to organizations working towards racial equity.

-Community Innovation Lab

Ame Sanders  05:40

So, you have some other programs, though, too. I wanted to ask a little bit about one you call the Community Innovation Lab because that's also one that intrigued me,

Jerry Hawkins  05:49

Of course. So, as many organizations had to do in 2020 when the pandemic started, we also had to shift. But then something else happened. That was the murders of George Floyd, the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. What we saw was that community members needed a more rapid response from organizations to do their work. We wanted to provide a place where community members can plan, research, and grow their ideas on how to increase racial equity and how to decrease the harms of racism.

So, we created what's called the Community Innovation Lab, which has two phases. The first phase is discovery, where we provide space, resources, even planning grants for community members to learn about the impacts of race and racism here in our local community and to start to grow their ideas on how to address it. The second phase of that work is incubation, where we actually provide office space, co-working space, larger implementation grants to community members who already have ideas and just need some support in some way.

So far, we have funded over 10 organizations and individuals who have amazing ideas on how to address these issues. One, for example, is the Mahogany Seat, a group of women who got together and created a podcast that addresses workplace racial trauma. They had a novel idea to bring an ex-employee and their former employer together on camera to discuss what happened and what went wrong, and how can they heal from this process. They even bring on therapists to meet with them before, during the podcast, and after. So, just an idea of some of the amazing things that we can support in our Community Innovation Lab.

Ame Sanders  07:59

So, you're an incubator for ideas that bring about equity and inclusion in your community.

Jerry Hawkins  08:06

That's right.

-Imagining a Radically Inclusive Dallas

Ame Sanders  08:07

That's really an interesting, interesting concept. One of the things I want to circle back to-- you talk about part of your work was envisioning a Dallas without racism. That's a powerful thought if each of us were to imagine our community and what it would mean, without racism. Are there a few things when you guys did that, that you want to just share with us maybe that came out of that? What does a Dallas without racism look like or mean?

Jerry Hawkins  08:39

Yeah. I mean, logistically, we partner with the Dallas Public Library, who also is one of the three organizations in Dallas that has racial equity in their mission statement, which is phenomenal, by the way. We partner with the Dallas Public Library because they have infrastructure in every community and are seen as a neutral ground. So, we had 11 of these sessions.

So, we had them in every community. So, white residents participated, Black residents, Latino residents, Asian residents, participated. Every age group, gender group, participated in this. So, we had a representative from every demographic that you can think of. What was interesting, though, was that older people, it was very difficult for them to imagine a Dallas without racism. You can tell that they had lived through and seen some things that had deeply impacted them and made them very pessimistic about seeing a Dallas or Fort Worth without racism.

But young people, though, had some really great ideas for the most part, and some of the things that they said that everyone would have everything they need. Or, there wouldn't be like rich neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods. Or the streets would be walkable, and we would have trees everywhere, right? Everyone would have the infrastructure they need. High-speed internet wouldn't be a barrier to success for people. So, there were some really great ideas, and we compiled those ideas and shared some of them on our website and in our report and use those ideas to start to build some of the programming that we do.

Ame Sanders  10:19

I think it's really important to just appreciate the work that you're doing in terms of starting from a vision. So, you start from the reality of the history, but then you focus on the vision and the possibility of what can be. Some communities start with an analysis of gaps and problems, and issues that the community faces. I think it's really interesting to have so much of your work come out of this sort of positive visioning of what Dallas looks like without racism. I think that's a really important, important element. I'm sure it affects the work that you do a lot to come from that orientation.

Jerry Hawkins  11:02

For sure, I mean, that's one of the orientations. Again, the first orientation is always the truth, right? We start with narrative change. Then narrative change is not always negative, either, you know? It may be more expansive, right? Telling a more expansive story of who we are means that we're not just going to have a monolithic group or a homogeneous group that is represented in the origin story of Dallas.

We're not going to tell the Indigenous story. We're not going to tell the Asian story. We're not going to tell the Jewish story. We're going to tell so many different stories, that everybody's going to have a place in this story is except for one group, which is usually the case when you tell the origin story of a place in the United States. So, that's a really great thing, right? We encourage that, and we continue to look for those things. But we also tell some of the more sinister stories too. The stories about discrimination and Jim Crow and policies that are neglectful of people. That is the analysis we need to now move on to that more positive vision. Because if we know what happened, then we can change what happens and make sure that we don't move to the past again.

-Jerry's Story

Ame Sanders  12:19

One of the things that this discussion makes me curious about is that when I talk to people in these interviews, I often wonder what brought them personally to the work that they're doing. And I have to say, I'm interested in hearing if you would share a little bit about your own story. What brings you to this work?

Jerry Hawkins  12:39

Of course. My grandparents grew up in the South. They were part of what some scholars call the Second Great Migration, which was Black families and individuals fleeing the states in the South and the cities in the South, and the towns, the rural places in the South looking for better opportunities. They came from Arkansas and Mississippi to Chicago looking for those opportunities. That's where my parents were born. My parents were born very poor in very segregated Black communities in Chicago on the south side and worked their way up to provide opportunities for young people like me, their son.

I was exposed to a lot of different things, but my first role out of college was at the Chicago Urban League, which is an affiliate of the National Urban League, which is one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country. Throughout that process, I learned so many things, but it made me remember why I actually changed my major in college. I was an art major because I had an opportunity as a young person to receive a scholarship to the School of Art Institute of Chicago. I took art classes every Saturday and Sunday as a continuing studies student until my junior year, where I started teaching college students in high school. So, I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer.

My mother was an educator. My aunt was an educator. But I had a summer job at a park district. In this summer job, while I was in college, I saw little Black and brown boys being separated from the rest of the group. The excuse what's their behavior, but they didn't seem any more precocious or mischievous than any other kid. Incidentally, when I went back to school, I changed my major to early childhood education. I really didn't want to be a teacher even though I'm a teacher by trade. What I wanted to do was find out why these little boys of color were being separated from the rest of the group. I wanted to find that out. I'm still on a search to find it out through my work. So, I became an educator.

My last role here, I was the director of the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative, and I created a collaborative called Bachman Lake Together and built the family center here that was focused on Latino families in a very needy neighborhood called Bachman Lake. Some of those same disparities were continuing to come. So, you know, through my work in education, it led me to the work of racial equity, racial healing, and racial justice.

Ame Sanders  15:29

Thank you for sharing that. Each of us brings our own background and our own experiences to this work, and it helps to understand a little bit about your background and what you are hoping to accomplish, and what brought you here. We talked a minute ago about narrative, and there's an author that I really liked a lot, John Paul Lederach, and his daughter Angela Jill Lederach. They're both active in some of the world's most difficult conflict zones, and they have a book called When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys Through the Soundscape of Healing and Reconciliation.

-Racial Healing

One of the things they talk about is that harm falls on individuals, but that healing has both an individual and a collective component. So maybe we could talk a little bit about how you deal with this very difficult issue of racial healing. We talked about truth-telling, but also this notion of trust. You talked a little bit about cynicism. So, maybe you could kind of wrap that up and talk about some of the work that you're doing focused on healing,

Jerry Hawkins  16:31

Of course. So, we live in very segregated communities, either by federal, state, or local policy or by our own misgivings about other communities, other racial groups or ethnicities, even nationalities. We have separated ourselves from each other, which means that we don't know much about each other. Then we have this construct of race, which is totally made up, but has real implications for people. So, when there's someone, a human being, that has to check a box on a census that says white, even though their nationality may hail from a great country like Ireland, which has its own cultural heritage, and song and ritual, they may have to remove those cultural and ritual gifts that they have to become white in this country, right? So, there's the individual healing that has to happen for them to even reclaim their own heritage. There's also the collective heritage.

I want to quote Heather McGhee. Heather McGhee has a book called The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Us All and What We Can Do About It. Heather's the former president of Demos, and she was the board chair of Color of Change. She's also Dr. Gail Christopher's daughter. Heather McGee wrote about us, Dallas TRHT, In the last chapter of her book, but her book focuses on a couple of things. One is the zero-sum cost of racism, which means that racism really takes away everything from all of us. She gives great examples, like the drained pool situation. Right after desegregation laws came, Black people were able to use the public pool that white people only have the right to use. So, now that Black people were using a pool, white residents who were still dealing with internalized racism and what that meant to share something with other communities, they drained the pool. Literally took the water out of the pool and filled it with concrete. Now nobody can use the pool. Right? That's an example of how these drained pool politics take away from all of us, right? But there's also this thing called the solidarity dividend. Like, what's in it for all of us, right? Once we find out what's in it for all of us, that's when we start to do collective healing. We have a tool that we use called the racial healing circle. The racial healing circle involves part of the other question that you've mentioned, the narratives. Now, these are personal narratives. What racial healing circles require you to do is to be an intent listener without speaking. You are receiving the narrative of someone else. You are changing yourself by receiving that narrative and allowing yourself to be changed by that narrative. These are usually in dyads that are in different racial groups. So, it may be an Asian woman with a Latino man. They have two different experiences, and that narrative requires each of them to listen but also to grow because now they're taking in a narrative that they have never received, and they can empathize with the person because they are not receiving any feedback. They are just listening. It requires you to open up yourself. So, that's an example of how narrative can shift people internally. Then we do that in a collective, we all now share some of those things in a big circle, and it requires us to now have different relationships with people. So, that's an example of a tool that could be individual and both collective as well.

-What Does Community Mean?

Ame Sanders  20:32

I love that example. It also makes me want to ask you about another question, which is, I recently talked with Janeen Bryant, who leads an organization in Charlotte, North Carolina, that's called the Community Building Initiative. I asked her some questions, and I think they're relevant here based on our discussion. So, when you use the word community, what does community mean to you?

Jerry Hawkins  20:59

It's a really good question. I think community has a lot of different meanings. One, when I mentioned community, I'm definitely talking about a collection of individuals, which make up people who you can build trust, you can build community initiatives with, you can share ideas with, and you can share love with. Those don't have to be family members. These can be people who you have built relationships you have worked with, that you have interacted with, and that you have common interest, or someone who you don't have a common interest, but you have a shared vision for. So, I don't think community is necessarily people who you agree with, right? It can be people who you have to share a space with. Community also can mean your wider community. There is an example of that when we talk about communities in which you don't live in. Sometimes people qualify those communities by using that community or these types of people in that community and othering those people. I like to say "our community," and our community is inclusive of everybody, regardless of whether we have the same vision or not, because we also have to live in the same city or the same state. So, community can be very nuclear or can be expansive for us in our work.

-Shifting Culture

Ame Sanders  22:24

So for Dallas as a community, the geographic environment of Dallas, and maybe since you mentioned Fort Worth broadening it Fort Worth, when you think about making change on the scale of a community, that's pretty daunting, right? So, what does it take to successfully build or shift a community to change its culture? Maybe more importantly, who does it take to make that happen?

Jerry Hawkins  22:53

It's a really good question as well. I think number one, we start with the first part of that framework, which I talked about. It's not just narrative; it's narrative change. So, if there's a city institution, we'll say the city of Dallas, for instance, and they're using language that is not inclusive in reports, in messaging, in social media, we may go to the city's equity office, and say, "This language is not representative of our community. Here's a more asset-based language or people-first language that we can use." If they agree to learn more about that, they may agree to do a policy change and use different language, which would reverberate through all of the other city institutions. That has happened before, right? That's an example of building a relationship that creates institutional change, which is connected to the system, right? That's the systemic change. So yeah, those things happen all the time. I think being successful means that you do that over and over again, countless amounts of times, until you start to see cracks in some of the inequitable structures that we have. I think we are doing that. We are in our fourth year of our Racial Equity Now cohort. We've had 50 organizations be a part of that. That includes our Dallas Stars hockey team. We now have had two school districts. We've had funders. We've had community organizers. So, each one of those also represents an organization who was not doing racial equity, racial healing, and racial justice work, but now is doing it because we have given them a grant to implement their work. So now, there are more cracks in this inequitable system. I think success looks like those cracks, right? Where people are now using different language or people are now out understanding that the history connected to that work is really important to share, and so they started sharing that. Or changing language, changing the way they hire, changing the way they give out money. We have countless examples of those things happening. So, that's what success looks nice to me--making more cracks into this inequitable system until it's no longer there.

Ame Sanders  25:23

But it takes a constancy to purpose and time to make that happen, right?

Jerry Hawkins  25:30

That's right. Consistency, a sustained effort, very committed and consistent work, and perseverance. Because times change. You know, in 2020, everybody was interested in doing this work. Right after January 6 the next year, nobody was interested anymore. So you know, we have persisted before, during, and after, and we're going to continue.

-About Challenges

Ame Sanders  26:00

So, maybe this is a good place to ask you if you would share a little bit about some of the challenges that you guys have faced in staying at this. That one is just one you mentioned, which is this ebbing and flowing of commitment and interest in this work. That's one challenge. But are there other kinds of challenges that you'd like to talk about or share with our listeners?

Jerry Hawkins  26:27

For sure. The biggest challenge is always funding. I'm saying this because racial equity funding for nonprofits through the philanthropic space is only 6% of all funding. If you talk about racial justice, it's 1%. Racial healing may be even less than that. So, there's not a lot of people who are committed to supporting long-term, the work of equity and justice. It's also hard to develop racial equity practitioners, racial healing practitioners, and racial justice practitioners. That work takes time. People have to learn historical context, they have to learn frameworks, they have to learn ways of being and language, they have to be more inclusive in their work, and they have to build relationships with community members who can then go to the next question you mentioned, which is trust. Because if the community doesn't trust, you will be very hard to make changes. Then the last thing is when you make change, you create conflict, and you create friction. So, all conflict and friction are not bad, but that conflict and friction mean that you are changing the status quo, and somebody is benefiting from the status quo. That means there's a cost to this work. That cost may be reputation. People may view you as a rabble-rouser. People may view you as a nagger or someone who was complaining all the time. They may even view you--I was called a warmonger because I brought up old history of enslavers in Dallas. I'm a pacifist. I don't even own a gun in a state that is leading the country in shootings and deaths. But that cost is the price you pay to do equity and justice work. If we want to see a more inclusive, more equitable world, we have to pay that cost.

-Where to Start

Ame Sanders  28:41

For communities that are hoping to see this change in their community or for individuals who are hoping to see this change in their community, what advice would you give them? Where should they start? What should they consider?

Jerry Hawkins  28:56

Yeah, where should they start? It's very easy to learn about TRHT. The Kellogg Foundation has a TRHT guidebook on their website, and you can download and actually has sections in there where it says how to do this in community, how to do this individually, and how to do this in your organization. So, they have actually guidebooks out there. I always also say there's also 14 communities that have piloted this already. There's a few more they are adding. I would Google those communities, which include places like the whole state of Alaska, LA, Richmond, Virginia, Selma, Alabama, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Flint, Michigan, and see what they've already started, especially Dallas TRHT because we have laid some type of blueprints for some of this work. I will say that TRHT is more expansive than just the places Kellogg has invested in colleges as well. So there's TRHT college centers and over 40 colleges all around the country. There's also investment into libraries. TRHT, through Kellogg, also invested in the American Library Association, and they created something called the TRHT Great Stories Book Clubs, which I also participated in through the Dallas Public Library. It's a great curriculum that has young people read books around social justice and then they do youth healing circles, which are amazing. So, there's a lot of TRHT material out there for folks to learn and to start this work. If not, they can always find us and get in contact with us and we've talked to communities all around the world.

-A Regional Approach

Ame Sanders  30:47

That's amazing that there's that much information out there for people to tap into, and obviously to learn from communities like yours, and from the work that organizations like yours are doing. I had another question for you, though, because some communities are also struggling with this, which is they want to grow. They're already maybe engaged in this work, and they want to grow beyond their own community to maybe a regional or a state-level initiative. You mentioned that you guys had expanded your work to Fort Worth. Can you talk about what it took to think about expanding your work and how that's worked for you and any advice you might have on making an initiative reach beyond city or community?

Jerry Hawkins  31:33

Of course. So, Dallas is part of the DFW metroplex, which means that we have two cities that are part of the 12 largest cities in the country. Fort Worth is, I think, the 12th largest city. Dallas is maybe number eight or something. Which means that there's a lot of work to do, and our cities are connected. But there is some strange competition because we are so close together. So, that means that when we got a large, sustainable grant from a Fort Worth funder, they asked us about our work. When they found out about Racial Equity Now and how we were moving organizations towards racial equity, racial healing, and racial justice, they asked us if we can do that in the Fort Worth community. What we said was, we're interested in that, but we have to do the same thing that we did in Dallas, which was to start from the beginning. That is a community racial history. So we got together historians and did a roundtable and learned about the history of race and racism in Fort Worth. Then we did the same thing that we did with the community visioning space. Instead of the SMU evaluators in Dallas, we partnered with TCU and got their evaluators, and we went to the public library in Fort Worth and started having those community conversations with different community members. Once we got information back from them, and the evaluators gave us some feedback, then we started recruiting to do the first pilot, Racial Equity Now Fort Worth. So, my advice would be never to just start programming. In a community, especially if you don't know anything about that community, we had to build trust. We had to meet people. I spent many nights having drinks and dinners with people learning about their work, and supporting that work. We provided sponsorships for people doing work. So, we really built up some community trust. We did a pilot session before we started doing programming, and that was really important for us.

Ame Sanders  33:49

I think that's really important for us to reflect on what you're telling us, which is that this is, to some extent, an inside job or a local job, because it is about going to the foundation for that community and their history.

Jerry Hawkins  34:06

I hired a liaison in Fort Worth to help us do this work and created dinner meetings and lunch meetings. We did field trips. We did so much community engagement before we even thought about doing any programming.

Ame Sanders  34:22

That's the other piece of it. This work is all about relationships, building those relationships and those connections. I think that your example really brings that home to us. This has been such a good discussion and a rich discussion. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you'd like to cover?

-Experimentation and Supporting Community Members

Jerry Hawkins  34:43

Yeah. We have a community engagement platform that's on our social media and on YouTube. It's called Transformation Talks. Transformation Talks provides us the space to talk directly to community members who are working in a very particular area. So, we've had Transformation Talks about race, racism, and faith. We talked to some pastors or people working in the faith area. We've had one about fashion in the media. We talked to people who work on the news or people who work in PR. So, we've had about 15 of those conversations. One of my favorites was with Dale Hansen. Dale Hansen is a local white sports columnist who was on WFAA, our channel seven ABC affiliate here. He would always do a race-related monologue on the Sunday News. He was retiring, and I knew that we were going to miss his voice. So, I got to talk to him about why he understood his privilege as a white newscaster and wanted to always talk about race on the news. We got to sit down in a cigar bar and smoke cigars, so I met him in his arena. But we've had conversations about infrastructure and gentrification. So, I would encourage folks to go to our YouTube page at Dallas TRHT and check some of those conversations out. They are really meaningful. We also sponsor anybody in our community who is doing anything in five areas: race, racism, racial equity, racial healing, and racial justice. If they're doing anything, we are willing to provide some resources, whether it was financial or otherwise, to support and make sure that those things happen. We are supporting right now the 50th-anniversary programming of Santos Rodriguez. He was a 12-year-old boy who was killed by the police in the 1970s here in Dallas. It led to one of our first prolonged protests. This is the 50th anniversary of his death this year. So, we're supporting the Santos Rodriguez Memorial Programs, just for example. So, those are really important to us, and if anyone in our community is doing that, we want to know about it so we can support.

Ame Sanders  37:11

I love that last point in that last example because for this work to take hold, it's not one organization that does all of this heavy lifting that we have to do. This idea of being able to, as we talked about early in the discussion, incubate and award grants to help people get started with solutions, but also then to support even smaller initiatives along the way as seeds to germinate and grow in your community. That's really, it's a very important thought. I think it's very relevant for many of the communities that are probably listening to this discussion.

Jerry Hawkins  37:52

That's right. We have to have the ability to experiment. In science and research, they call it research and development. But in the nonprofit space, particularly in the equity space, we have to have research and development too. We have to have a space where we can try some things out. Even if we fail, even if they don't work, we should be able to try those things out that will improve our community. I'm not just talking about the normal food drives and clothing giveaways, and back-to-school picnics . Those things are great, but what will it require to change our communities to make them more equitable? I want to know those ideas, and I want folks to be able to try them out, which is why we provide support.

-Conclusion and Summary

Ame Sanders  38:37

Jerry Hawkins, this has been a great discussion. Thank you so much for your time this afternoon, and for sharing with us about the Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation work that you and your team are doing.

Jerry Hawkins  38:49

Thank you. I appreciate you for having me. Enjoyed the conversation.

Ame Sanders  39:04

My conversation today with Jerry introduced me to their work in Dallas and Ft Worth, but also to a national initiative. The work that the Kellogg Foundation sponsored with 14 cities across the country around the concepts of Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation is so powerful. I loved hearing how Jerry and his team brought that to life in the Dallas and Ft Worth area.

Jerry reminded us, as we’ve heard from others on the podcast, what he called the first principle, creating a complete and accurate history of race and racism for his community. That includes examining the past and past harms before moving forward into healing. Jerry also talked about being sure to create a more expansive inclusive narrative that includes more stories, not just Black stories, but Native American, Jewish, and Asian stories. Telling a more inclusive narrative and history of your community.

Jerry then talked about what he called their second principle, which was to create a shared, compelling, and measurable vision for the future of their community. He described how they went about working with community members to imagine a radically inclusive Dallas, a Dallas without racism. Asking what it would feel like and what it would take to get there. I have to say it was also encouraging to hear that a key partner in these visioning sessions was the Dallas public library system. Libraries are so important to our communities, and this is just another example of their potential as an inclusive, neutral, and welcoming community partner.

Jerry was clear that there is no short-cutting of these first two steps and that it is at its heart local work. He told us we should not consider starting programming before we’ve been through these steps for our own community. Jerry even described how they repeated these steps as they expanded beyond Dallas into the community of Ft Worth.

Jerry described this work of history, narrative, visioning and building relationships as foundational.

The programming that Jerry’s team has now put in place is based on the unique needs of their community and rests solidly on top of these foundational elements. It includes what he called the Racial Equity Now cohorts, which I about building the capacity of organizations across Dallas to undertake racial equity and healing work in their own organizations.

Jerry also described their Community Innovation Lab, where they support and incubate solutions that help test and experiment with bringing racial equity and healing solutions alive in the community and allow a more rapid response.

Jerry also described the racial healing circles where dyads of individuals build empathy and relationships as they listen, really listen, to each other’s story.

If you were heartened by all of this, as I was, and think perhaps it sounds like something your community needs, please check out the show notes. As always, there will be more links and resources there.

This has been the State of Inclusion podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share the podcast or discuss these ideas with others. If you'd like to hear more about the practice of building an inclusive and equitable community, head over to and sign up for our newsletter. Also, feel free to leave us a review or reach out. We'd love to hear from you.

Thanks so much for listening and join us again next time.


Guest: Jerry Hawkins

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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