Engagement

Programs

Racial healing and relationship building are the central components of our engagement work. To elevate and apply the holistic TRHT Framework as a driver of sustained transformation, Duke TRHT collaboratively plans and implements relational programming at Duke, in Durham, and beyond. The strength of the TRHT Framework is the way in which it can be adapted to meet the unique contexts and specific goals of a university unit (e.g., school, center, department, faculty course) or community organization.

We offer a variety of opportunities, such as the following core programs, that we tailor to meet the needs of our partners and collaborators.

Rx Racial Healing® Circles

As the centerpiece of the national TRHT Framework, Rx Racial Healing® Circles (RxRHCs), which are adapted from the practices of indigenous communities, create a compassionate space for participants to share personal truths that facilitate the process of transforming hearts and minds.

The basic format of an RxRHC, is a circle setting co-facilitated by experienced practitioners. Beginning with an initial training to acquire core skills, racial healing practitioner training is an ongoing process. RxRHC co-facilitators create an environment in which to be vulnerable, open, and affirming, and engage from a “heart-space” (as opposed to a “head-space”). In response to directed and positive prompts, circle participants from diverse backgrounds share and listen to one another’s stories in large group and dyad pairs, open themselves to curiosity, wonder, and appreciation for others’ perspectives and experiences, and are able to feel connected while honoring the uniqueness of each person’s lived history.

At the individual level, an RxRHC is intended to foster humility and expand the ways we relate to ourselves, particularly through the opportunity to see and define ourselves based on the wholeness of our being, beyond imposed identities based on superficial physical characteristics.

At the interpersonal level, an RxRHC can allow us to see ourselves in each other’s stories and models our ability to connect human-to-human, heart-to-heart. An RxRHC embeds the ABC’s of Rx Racial Healing®: Appreciation/Affirmation, Belongingness, and Consciousness Change and individual agency within its design.

The impact of an RxRHC is largely due to its narrative format rather than being an “educational” delivery of information. Research suggests that the human brain is wired to absorb stories much more so than data, and thus a participant’s whole being becomes involved in transformation at the relational level.

The relational connections formed allow people to expand their circles of engagement and increase their capacity to problem-solve and address systemic racism in settings with diverse participants and perspectives.

As with the physical body, wherein a longtime injury or chronic illness requires slow and steady healing over time, so with groups of people. The circle process is not a “one and done” intervention, designed to “fix” or “undo” the wrongs of the past or mitigate all contemporary suspicion and fear in one session. Each circle meets participants where they are, helping them each take the steps necessary towards increased empathy and compassion for one another.

To facilitate the Racial Healing & Relationship Building work of RxRHCs and other TRHT-related activities, we have established our first dedicated Racial Healing space in the Social Science Research Institute, where the Duke TRHT Center is located.

Rx Racial Healing® Circles are:

  • Spaces that center agency and embrace each other’s common humanity through shared stories

  • The practice of empathy through perspective-taking, deep listening, and story sharing

  • Invitations to engage the heart-space, be vulnerable, and express truth

Rx Racial Healing® Circles are not:

  • Conversations or dialogues about race, which reinforce the myth of racial hierarchies

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion work

  • Anti-racism work (the subject of anti-racism work is racism; the subject of racial healing work is healing)

  • Community forums on racial equity

RxRHCs enable participants to connect on a fundamentally human level based on our common, equal, and interdependent humanity, which is the desired state for dismantling the false belief in a racial hierarchy that fuels racism (individual, interpersonal, institutional). Rx Racial Healing® is complementary to DEI work and Anti-racism work and is critical to the process of dismantling the false belief in a racial hierarchy.

Transforming Dialogues on Race and Racism

Transforming Dialogues on Race and Racism (TDRR) emerged from persistent participant questions about why RxRHCs did not include explicit conversations about race. Reinforcing the TRHT Framework, we created a circle experience that promotes critical reflection by pairing head-space learning about the roots of race and the impacts of racism with heart-space interpersonal connecting and sharing of stories. TDRR foster a greater critical understanding of the specific ways in which racialized scripts are imprinted in our daily social interactions. This new understanding of race and racism coupled with the sharing of personal stories about their impacts can enable participants to acquire greater compassion for each other, and eventually, for every human being.

Story Circles

Recognizing the similarities between the story sharing and empathy building approaches of TRHT RxRHC practices and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Story Circles, we have partnered with one of the primary authors of the UNESCO Story Circles methodology and have incorporated UNESCO Story Circles in our programming.

UNESCO Story Circles build intercultural competence through prompts that explore participants’ shared humanity. Piloted around the world by UNESCO, Story Circles aim to build the skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed to improve interactions across lines of difference. UNESCO Story Circles can be used as an initial engagement strategy prior to RxRHCs to provide a gentle introduction to circle work, personal narrative, and deep listening practices. In Story Circles of four to six people, participants learn to hear, appreciate, and celebrate the similarities and differences in cultural backgrounds and lived experiences that are shared.

Introduction to the TRHT Framework Workshop

This workshop introduces participants to the national Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Movement and Framework—a comprehensive and community-based process to address the historical and contemporary sources of racism and bring about transformation and sustainable change. Through participatory dialogue, this session guides participants to think about how they can integrate the core components of the TRHT Framework into their work and other racial justice initiatives.