Pioneering filmmaker and activist Ava DuVernay hosted the annual National Day of Racial Healing event in collaboration with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The event was hosted on Tuesday through ARRAY; DuVernay’s distribution and advocacy company.
Curated by DuVernay, the event included conversations and performances to help build awareness and inspire dialogue around racial equity, justice, and healing.
Following MLK day, the event on Tuesday brought together the likes of Stacey Abrams, Laverne Cox, David Oyelowo, Eva Longoria, Judd Apatow, Storm Reid, Melissa Etheridge and more.
The initiative is a national and community-based effort to engage communities, organizations, and individuals across the United States in racial healing. TRHT addresses present-day inequities linked to historic and contemporary beliefs in a hierarchy of human value.
During her succession in the industry, DuVernay has been a vocal and staunch advocate for women and people of color in Hollywood.
In an Adweek interview, DuVernay described how she doesn’t perceive artists and activists as different. She pointed out,
“Activism is inherently a creative endeavor, it takes a radical imagination to be an activist, to envision a world that is not there. It takes imagination and that’s not far from art.”
The Academy Award-nominated director released a statement on the event to Deadline,
“The responsibility of fighting inequality and injustice is all of ours. But it’s particularly important that those of us with certain visibility and influence use our platforms to urge bold conversations. We can never give up on pushing this nation to live up to its promise.”
“There’s a lot of talking and tweeting these days. A lot of pontification about where we are as a country and how we arrived here. When Kellogg approached ARRAY about working together on furthering and deepening those conversations, I was all in.”
The event was segmented into several conversations and performances. DuVernay sat down with Stacey Abrams — the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia — whose tight race against the Republican candidate Brian Kemp, drew national attention and raised major concerns around voter suppression.
Speaking on the project of racial healing, Abrams expressed,
“Racial healing is an active job. That means we have to do the work of fixing the problems we see. I personally do it by running for office, but in the times I am not standing for office, I try to find ways to be active in my community and to lift up the issues I think matter. I’m focusing on voting rights, and the census, and access to social justice, but every single day is an act of racial healing when we work to connect communities and stand up for each other — especially those communities that are not our own.”
Abrams spoke to DuVernay about her 2018 campaign, her narrow loss, and the state of democracy. She said,
“When other people didn’t do the work, I did it myself. Sometimes the loser is you so other people can be victors.”
“We take for granted our democracy, but it is fragile….we do not have a permanent democracy, we have a democracy we have to fight for. That fight happens every day, and it happens at the polls.”
Abrams pointed out the power state and local governments have during election cycles, reminding the audience that “Jim Crow was not a federal law,” but rather was a law that was enacted and enforced by state governments.
Indeed, her run for governor of Georgia proved that many voters were systematically obstructed from exercising their constitutional right to elect their leaders. Post-election, Abrams continues to remain focused on tackling the issue of voter suppression and empowering voters who live in marginalized locations,
“You expand the electorate by making certain poor, rural communities aware of the power of their vote. If you change the south, you change America and that’s my mission.”
The host of Democracy Now, Amy Goodman explained to ARRAY how she heals,
— ARRAY (@ARRAYNow) January 22, 2019
In a conversation with Goodman, pioneering trans actress and activist, Laverne Cox, responded to the Supreme Court’s revival of President Donald Trump’s plan to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
Cox spoke about the individual process of healing and transformation. She asserted,
“A person has to be willing to be wrong for transformation to happen. In coming to consciousness we have to unlearn- we have to be willing to be wrong. I believe that we trans and black people are collectively traumatized. And trauma is really hard to heal. Healing has to start with each of us,”
Best-selling children’s book novelist and author Jackie Woodson, who joined Cox on stage said, echoed her sentiment by stating,
“The beginning of discomfort is the beginning of change.”
In discussing her career as a writer, Woodson said,
“As a child in literature, I didn’t see myself… I found the only way to change it was to write myself into it.
— Candi Castleberry Singleton #MeetAtTheIntersection (@Candi) January 22, 2019
Writer and activist Audre Lorde, famously said that self-care is both an act of self-preservation and political warfare. As the assaults on the life of people of color continue to manifest in many forms, Lorde’s weighted statement continues to resonate today.
Maintaining emotional and mental health in this divisive and volatile political climate is particularly important given the barrage of troubling news headlines that stream through our devices every day under this current administration.
Plus, when women of color have exercised their power and voice to social justice movements, these same movements do not always wholly respect and incorporate their issues and concerns into their political platform.
Taking time for yourself, as Lorde stated, “is not an act of self-indulgence,” but rather is an individual project that is critical to the larger project of emancipation.
Here’s to the rebels at Array and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for organizing the event and fostering an important discourse on some of the most important issues.
If you missed out on seeing it live, you can watch the event on Array’s website.