LIVE UNITED, is a phrase we do not take lightly at United Way, and one that calls us to be mindful of how we can be better community members each and every day. As the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Chicago Community Trust launched its Healing Illinois Program, United Ways from across the state came together to launch the 21 week equity challenge.
There are so many reasons to be proud of our local community, but when it comes to racial justice and equity, we fall severely behind. We recognize there is a significant need for us as individuals and organizations to gain a better understanding of how inequity and racism impact so many of our neighbors and learn what we can do to dismantle all forms of oppression.
Recent statistics and the tragic murders that sparked incredible activism last year are the reasons we know we must do better. It is not enough just to be kind. We need to be strategic, because our vision for our community, our fight for basic needs, education, financial stability and health, is not for one segment of our community, it is for everyone in our community.
We have partnered with United Way’s across Illinois to join the United Way of Illinois 21 Week Equity Challenge. The Equity Challenge is a free 21-week program that encourages Illinois residents to engage in racial equity conversations to gain a deeper understanding about the impact systemic racism and inequity have on our state and in our local communities.
The Equity Challenge is designed to be a powerful opportunity for shared learning, action, and growth. The self-guided learning journey examines the history and impact of racism, and how it has shaped people’s lives. Weekly topics include understanding unconscious bias, the impact of housing & redlining, justice system inequities, and many other topics that will encourage participants to dig deeper. The experience will deepen understanding and help launch what we hope will be a lifelong commitment to improving equity and inclusion.
Participants who complete all of the weekly challenges will receive a certificate of completion, a digital badge, and links to tips and training tools to help continue the conversation.
Our goal is simple. We are asking for Illinoisans to take the time to reflect and learn how racial inequities permeate our community on individual, institutional and systemic levels. We believe united action is powerful and it benefits us all to have greater collective capacity and courage to identify and address the different ways that bias, prejudice, privilege, and oppression show up in our work and lives.
Everyone participating in the Challenge, is encouraged to join us for community conversations, hosted by Watson Diversity Solutions and United Way of Central Illinois!
These free local conversations will give you the opportunity to reflect on your experience throughout the challenge, to share your experience with others and to connect and build new relationships with allies in this work.
In order to participate in the community conversations, you will need to be signed up for the 21 Week Equity Challenge. Head to www.springfieldunitedway.org/21weekconversations to attend one of these community conversations. Below are the dates and times of each virtual conversation:
- February 11, 2021 Weeks 1-4 Community Conversation Discussion,11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- March 4, 2021 Weeks 5-7 Community Conversation Discussion,11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- March 18, 2021 Weeks 8-9 Community Conversation Discussion, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- April 8, 2021 Weeks 10-12 Community Conversation Discussion, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- April 29, 2021 Weeks 13-15 Community Conversation Discussion, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- June 10, 2021 Weeks 16-21 Community Conversation Discussion, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Following a year of great unrest and strife, it’s critical that we take the time to learn with and from each other. Because united, we can create change. Join thousands of your neighbors across Illinois for the United Way of Illinois Equity Challenge. To sign up, please head to www.unitedwayillinois.org/equity-challenge/.
John Kelker is the President and Chief Professional Officer of the United Way of Central Illinois.