The Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley came as a result of a Western Massachusetts leadership group visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan as part of the City2City Pioneer Valley initiative, where area leaders visit “resurgent cities” seeking best practices in addressing common challenges in metro areas.
The City2City leadership group, representing business, education, philanthropy and other sectors learned about Grand Rapids’ commitment and success in engaging their community around issues of race and inclusion, and in addressing the issue of racism. Housed in the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the organization’s Inclusion and Community Leadership division has offered ongoing two-day Facing Racism sessions through the Chamber’s Institute for Healing Racism program, involving more than 2,000 individuals over the past 15 years.
A small group of City2City Pioneer Valley participants returned to Grand Rapids to experience the two-day Facing Racism program first hand. Upon returning, the Regional Anti-Racism Workgroup was established to determine interest in pursuing the development of a similar initiative in Western Massachusetts. Using the Grand Rapids model and engaging a facilitation team with nationwide experience, the Healing Racism two-day program and curriculum was established, and hundreds of local individuals representing a wide range of leadership in the Pioneer Valley have participated.
The initiative, now called the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley, has received founding financial support from the area’s largest employer, Baystate Health, the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, and John and Robyn Davis. The Institute has also received in-kind support from Holyoke Community College, host site for Healing Racism sessions, the United Way of Pioneer Valley, which is serving as fiscal sponsor, and Paul Robbins Associates, which has provided strategic communications services.