In 2017, Duke University officially joined the nationwide Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) movement. The movement had been gaining traction as a result of the vision and multi-million-dollar investment by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation into fourteen city-based start-up TRHT programs around the United States. The burgeoning success of these programs led Kellogg to expand the movement to university and college campuses.
The Duke TRHT Center is one of the inaugural ten TRHT Campus Centers established through a competitive process and seed funding from the Kellogg Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation in partnership with the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). Seeing the enormous potential for a TRHT Center located at Duke and in advance of the actual award, University leadership committed (and has continued to provide) additional funding and support to the Center.
Leading up to the creation of the Center, the legacies and consequences of the myth of race and racial hierarchy filled Duke’s hallways and Durham’s neighborhoods. At the same time, the Race: Are We So Different? (RACE) exhibit at The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences was inspiring passionate conversations among Durham residents and members of the Duke community on the history and lived experiences of race and strategies to move beyond the status quo of systemic racism. In addition, Duke’s transdisciplinary Center on Genomics, Race, Identity, Difference (GRID), a co-sponsor of the RACE exhibit, was already working to address the persistence and impacts of false notions about race and its relationship to genetics.
I discovered in the TRHT methodology a comprehensive and coherent philosophy that resonated with my deepest conviction about how we must approach dismantling the crippling effects of the belief in a racial hierarchy. The TRHT Framework is not an intervention as such, but a rigorous, multi-level process, that is visionary, dynamic, and bold. At its core are two essential pillars, Narrative Change and Racial Healing & Relationship Building, that undergird the work of structural change and radical transformation, and that of our TRHT Center.
In our early days, we focused on facilitating a “consciousness shift,” as then Trinity College’s Dean Valerie Ashby charged, formulating and applying research methods, devising and implementing campus and community engagement opportunities, and delivering educational programs. Selected members of Duke senior leadership, including Deans, Vice Provosts, and Vice Presidents, came together to form our visible and highly engaged Steering Committee, helping us recognize the historical and contemporary narratives of race and racism at Duke and commit to and participate in the work of personal and institutional transformation. Along with the President, Provost, Chancellor and their leadership teams, the Steering Committee participated in an Rx Racial Healing® event in 2019 led by Dr. Gail Christopher, the visionary for and architect of the TRHT movement, thereby embedding the experience of racial healing in the history of a new chapter at Duke. Since then, we have partnered and collaborated with a broad range of units across and off campus, engaging with administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the broader community in building extended coalitions of TRHT practitioners and change agents.
The nationwide TRHT movement and the establishment of the TRHT Campus Center network predate the recent global reckoning with structural racism that has fueled the momentum for racial equity efforts at Duke and other academic institutions. The Duke Racial Equity Advisory Council that emerged from this reckoning is aligned with and complements the work of the TRHT Center.
We look forward to touching many more lives and entities at Duke and beyond, and facilitating the eradication of racism. We invite you to join us on this journey.
Charmaine DM Royal
Duke TRHT Strategy
Within the parameters of the national TRHT movement’s Framework, all TRHT partner organizations have the freedom to shape their work in ways that respond to the needs of their specific environments and constituencies. After ascertaining key leverage points for change at Duke, identifying potential stakeholders, and reflecting on the institution’s history in relation to race and racism, we developed the following Vision, Mission, and Goals:
A world without racism:
where empathy, justice, and unity prosper; human variation is valued and seen as an asset essential to the progress and flourishing of the human family; and the life outcomes of all are optimized.
To dismantle deeply rooted beliefs in racial hierarchies and disrupt persistent structures and impacts of racism at Duke, in Durham, and beyond.
- Uncover, produce, and share accurate and complete narratives about race and racism.
- Cultivate relationships that celebrate our common humanity, embrace our diversity, and expand the circles of individuals willing to work towards transformation.
- Foster systemic change and collective freedom wherein every life has equal value and the consequences of beliefs in racial hierarchies no longer shape our experiences and outcomes.
Toward Duke’s Second Century
In 2019, as President Price developed “Toward Our Second Century: A Strategic Framework for Duke,” the Duke TRHT Center noted that our vision, mission, and goals harmoniously dovetailed with the evolving Duke Framework’s core strategic commitments of Empowering our People, Transforming Teaching and Learning, Renewing Our Campus Community, Forging Purposeful Partnerships in Durham and the Region, and Activating Our Global Network. Alignment of the TRHT Center’s philosophy with Duke’s Strategic Initiatives continues today through the expansion of our educational offerings, racial healing programming, and local and global community coalition building. The TRHT Center is also in step with the Racial Equity Advisory Council (REAC). REAC serves as an Advisory Body to the Executive Leadership of the University and through four subcommittees, is charged with implementing the key concepts outlined in the “President’s 2020 Juneteenth’s message on Anti-Racism”.