WSU Tri-Cities participates in inaugural National Day of Racial Healing

RICHLAND, Wash – On Jan. 17, Washington State University observed, for the first time, the National Day of Racial Healing (NDORH) to reflect on shared values and build relationships based on trust and mutual respect. The day included activities at each of the WSU campuses to promote healing from racism, one of our biggest and most impactful community challenges.

MOSAIC Center Coordinator Kauser Gwaduri and two students sit around a table in the Learning Commons.

MOSAIC Center Coordinator Kauser Gwaduri (middle) and two students participate in a reflection exercise.

Kersten Bergstrom, chair of the National Day of Racial Healing Pedagogy Working Group, member of the WSU Tri-Cities NDoRH planning committee and lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences said the day is meant to act as a catalyst for individual and community action toward racial healing. “It is with intentional compassion and truth-telling that we may begin the healing process. This process will be sustained by deepening our understanding of self-care, community care and by embracing the WSU and Tri-Cities community around us.”

The day’s activities began with a virtual opening ceremony featuring a panel of participants from across the WSU system discussing the topic “Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation across the Washington State University System”. Robert Franklin, an assistant professor of history on the WSU Tri-Cities campus and assistant director of the Hanford History Project participated on the panel with Shayla Reid, a third-year medical student; Lois James, associate professor in the WSU College of Nursing; Connie Nguyen-Truong, a tenured associate professor in the WSU College of Nursing; and Julian Ankney, from the department of English at WSU Vancouver. Panelists offered their perspective on questions such as: What does racial healing mean to you? Why is it important to keep in mind that racial healing is not a one-size fits all approach? and What is one thing on a community level that is needed in order to be impactful and equitable?

Franklin, a historian who teaches students about systems and practices of racial exclusion and resistance said, “The National Day of Racial Healing gives us the space to sit with history, with ourselves, and with others in compassion and healing. To hopefully understand and process the past and not, as the adage is often said, “to be doomed to repeat history.”

On-campus events and activities scheduled throughout the day gave students, staff and faculty opportunities for reflection, meditation, and creative expression and to connect with resources to support mental health, physical health, racial healing, social justice and community belonging.

Photo of a small square painting on a table. The painting features multicolored squares with portraits inside of them and text reading "My black is beautiful"

Students participated in a Creation Station activity as part of the National Day of Racial Healing.

Sylvia Rangel-van Breda Vriesman, student counselor and wellness coordinator at WSU Tri-Cities and member of the WSU Tri-Cities NDoRH planning committee promoted virtual mental health support spaces throughout the day for students across the WSU System. For her, the day was an opportunity to reflect on the toll that racism takes on our mental health and well-being “The events of racism are evident all around us. This is an opportunity to reflect on how racism systemically impacts us – because of this occurrence, everyone can benefit from doing this process-oriented work,” she said.

Kauser Gwaduri, coordinator of the MOSAIC Center of Student Inclusion and member of the NDoRH planning committee discussed the importance of community within the healing process saying,“ Fostering community is central to who I am and to the MOSAIC center. The National Day of Racial Healing is a chance to expand our communities and to heal and grow together”.

The Chair of the WSU National Day of Racial Healing committee, Trymaine Gaither said the events on the WSU Tri-Cities campus demonstrated our shared commitment and decision towards racial healing. “I am grateful to the students, staff, faculty, guest speakers, and volunteers who made this day possible,” he said.

The day concluded with a virtual closing ceremony with musical performances and a video message from each of the six chancellors about what racial healing means to them.

The WSU Tri-Cities NDoRH planning committee is hopeful that next year, we can continue these efforts towards racial healing “in and out of the classroom”. As Gaither commented during the closing ceremony, “healing is our decision”.


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