In just three short years, Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Kalamazoo has grown from a new initiative in Kalamazoo to a community-led movement with over 130 local partners supporting the work. In just the last two years, five teams have formed to develop programming that examines and works to heal the historical and present-day impact of racism in core areas society: Law, Economy, and Separation (segregation in housing and education), Narrative Change, and Racial Healing and Relationship Building.

"We took on the challenge of designing what TRHT specifically needed to look like for Kalamazoo and bringing that vision to life," said Sholanna Lewis, director of TRHT Kalamazoo. "We’ve made great strides in such a short time and it’s only through the collaboration and dedication of our community and partners that this is possible."

The community and infrastructure surrounding TRHT are not the only things that have grown. TRHT continues to grow critical funding to sustain its work in the community for years to come. With funding from the Stryker Johnston Foundation, in addition to support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KZCF), the TRHT Kalamazoo Endowment Fund was established in 2019 with a $1 million investment.
The TRHT Endowment fund is held at KZCF, which currently serves as the host for TRHT in Kalamazoo. Funds from the endowment will support long-term and multi-faceted efforts to address racial inequity, discrimination, racial bias and institutional and systemic racism while also supporting racial healing work in Kalamazoo County.

Here's a snapshot of some of the work TRHT has led in the last year:

Cultural Awareness Training for Police Cadets
In February 2019, the TRHT Law Design Team, led by retired Captain Stacey Randolph Ledbetter, launched a training program to train police cadets to heal mistrust and strained relationships between law enforcement and communities of color. The training is the first of its kind for police cadets in Michigan. Since the first training, the team has held two additional local trainings with over 50 cadets and 150 community members.

Ret. Capt. Stacey Randolph Ledbetter speaks with KVCC police cadets during the August 2019 Cultural Awareness Training.
"These unique experiences and trainings bring together police cadets and a diverse group of local community members to have real conversations about personal stories, to learn history about the U.S. not often taught, and to build positive relationships in the process," said Stacey R. Ledbetter. "The results are reaffirming individual humanity, and increasing consciousness, cultural awareness, respect and empathy for everyone in attendance."

Coalition for Inclusive Communities
KZCF is one of five community foundations nationwide recently selected for the Coalition for Inclusive Communities (CIC), a project of Boston-based CFLeads (Community Foundations Leading Change). CIC will work to advance equity in the workplace and build community cohesion. KZCF and other participating foundations will develop local employer networks to identify and promote practices that improve workplace equity.

The TRHT Kalamazoo Economy Design Team is implementing this work in Kalamazoo County. Goals include developing a network of employers committed to promoting workplace equity; and creating a targeted effort to support and provide access and resources to people of color.

Urban Institute Housing Challenge
At the Urban Institute’s 2019 national housing conference, TRHT Separation Design Team and a group of local partners won the Housing Design Challenge. Teams were challenged to design an intervention plan that could increase stability, well-being, or racial equity with a particular resident’s experience in mind. Out of 100 participants, the Kalamazoo partnership was one of three plans selected to receive technical and financial support from the Urban Institute to bring the idea to life.

TRHT Separation Design Team and a group of local partners won the Housing Design Challenge at the Urban Institute’s 2019 national housing conference.

The team’s plan addresses housing instability among residents of color while tackling high vacancy in low-income neighborhoods in Kalamazoo County. Together, the partners are drafting a long-view approach to combine current and future programs together into a multiyear path for improve housing access and housing stock.

"The endowment fund provides sustainability, and this is only the beginning," said Carrie Pickett-Erway, president/CEO of KZCF. "We know systemic racism can only be addressed effectively through long-term efforts. We will continue to seek monetary gifts as well as gifts of time and talent to support this critical work for generations to come."

"Starting an endowment fund will firmly plant the seeds of transformation in Kalamazoo now and into the future," said Andrew Chaponda, TRHT Kalamazoo Separation Design Team Lead. "Our work, like removing impediments to equitable housing in Kalamazoo, will take years to address fully. We couldn’t be more excited to keep this work going."

Building the TRHT Endowment Fund was a team effort. KZCF staff members and the board of trustees personally contributed to seed the fund.

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