Three Charlotte universities unite to support racial healing and transformation

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Three Charlotte universities are banding together to support racial healing and transformation. As the Charlotte Racial Justice Consortium, UNC Charlotte, Johnson C. Smith University and Queens University of Charlotte will collaborate to listen to Charlotte’s many racial truths; encourage a community that understands its history of race and racism; and develop student, university and community leaders who work across the region toward truth, racial healing and equity.

The effort is supported by the consortium’s selection as a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center by the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). The association created the initiative to prepare the next generation of strategic leaders to dismantle the belief in a hierarchy of human value. 

LeAnna Rice, associate dean of students at Queens University, remarked, “Our three universities, each with an impressive history and campus community, are well-positioned to provide the leadership Charlotte needs at this time. With intention, we have deepened our inter-university working relationships to pave the way towards a more racially-just Charlotte.” 

This year, the consortium will launch the Charlotte Racial Equity Leadership Fellows program. Six students from each campus will be selected to participate in a year-long reflection of Charlotte’s history of racism and its connection to each university, while exploring racial equity and developing leadership skills. The fellowship will culminate in unique, student-led projects on the three campuses designed to foster truth, racial healing and transformation. 

“JCSU is the only HBCU included in this year’s cohort of 13 awardees (23 to date), and our consortium is the only TRHT Campus Center to include multiple universities with distinct student populations. Together, we more accurately represent the greater Charlotte community. Thus, we believe it is imperative to have students play a primary role in this initiative,” said Cindy Kistenberg, associate professor of communication and theatre at Johnson C. Smith University.

A critical TRHT tool involves healing circles that can engage the broader Charlotte community in this work of racial reconciliation. The circles will rotate monthly between the three campuses starting in late summer, and welcome community members throughout the city to reflect, share truths and collaboratively create a new racial narrative.

“Charlotte has the interest and bandwidth to listen and work collaboratively towards anti-racism, racial equity and transformation at the individual-, group- and system-levels,” said Susan McCarter, social work professor at UNC Charlotte and a principal investigator on the project. 

Initial consortium representatives include Tehia Starker Glass (UNC Charlotte), Cindy Kistenberg (JCSU), Susan McCarter (UNC Charlotte), LeAnna Rice (Queens) and Judy Schindler (Queens). They invite additional supporters on this important journey.

AAC&U will support the TRHT Campus Centers through the TRHT advisory committee, a national network of advisors and experts. Faculty and staff members will participate in the 2020 TRHT Campus Centers Institute June 16-19 in Atlanta.

“Given the growing divisions in our country, the launch of [these additional] TRHT Campus Centers reminds us of the possibilities for healing and unity in our society. We must focus our efforts on preparing the next generation of leaders to dismantle the misguided beliefs and actions that promote a hierarchy of human value,” said Tia Brown McNair, AAC&U vice president for diversity, equity and student success and executive director for the TRHT Campus Centers.