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Public Television to Air Live Race Relations Forum Feb. 23

Source:  WGBY
Published:  February 21, 2017

Local PBS station WGBY and the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley explore racism in western New England during live Thursday night special, Healing Racism: A Community Dialogue with award-winning journalist Tina Martin.

With a community as diverse as the one here in western New England, it's helpful at times to have an honest discussion about our differences—and similarities. That's why, working with partner group Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley, local public television and PBS station WGBY is hosting a unique town hall-style forum on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. about regional race relations.

Moderated by WGBH news reporter Tina Martin, the forum will be broadcast live from the Springfield studios. It will include a brief profile of the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley and its signature two-day "Healing Racism" seminar. Then panel of special guests will engage in a conversation about the institutional nature of racism and various manifestations of racism.

A live studio audience will be encouraged to offer thoughts and ask questions. In addition, the public television station is asking viewers to join the conversation virtually, using social media hashtag #wgbydialogue via Facebook and Twitter before, during, and after the televised event.

"We had been talking about doing something with Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley for a while," explains WGBY's Interim General Manager Lynn Page, "but weren't sure exactly what or how. Then, as we lined up all of our Black History Month programming, this opportunity unfolded. The Institute really does a fine job of facilitating what can be a personal and difficult topic."

For its part, the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley says it is eager to do the project, too. Waleska Lugo-DeJesús, the director of the Institute, says the project benefits all viewers by not only raising awareness, but also demonstrating the benefits of using established processes to discuss racism.

"Our goal is really to elevate people's consciousness about race and help them to understand systemic inequities within that," said Lugo-DeJesús. "We want this to be an experience that incorporates real history, exercise, dialogue, and candid conversation to define the impacts of racism, but also models how we all can discuss a difficult subject."

Moderated by award-winning public television journalist Tina Martin (seen on WGBH's Greater Boston and Basic Black and contributing to PBS Newshour), WGBY's Healing Racism: A Community Dialogue will feature intellectual contributions on the subject of racism from a panel of western New England locals.

They include:

  • Lisa Bakowski, principal of Boland Elementary School in Springfield.
  • Heshima Moja, co-facilitator of Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley's two-day seminars.
  • Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP.
  • David Woods, principle of Longmeadow-based Woods Financial Group.

The panel will field questions from a live studio audience as well as from social media contributors using hashtag #wgbydialogue.

"I was eager to host this forum," says Martin, "because it's an authentic, worthwhile effort — to make a tough conversation be something productive." She adds that recent news events underscore racism as a topic in need of continued unpacking.

"I'm especially eager to hear from the audience and read the live tweets and Facebook posts," Martin adds. "I would love to get some real engagement going from viewers."

WGBY's Healing Racism: A Community Dialogue will air live Thursday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. Social media participation will be led by journalist Elizabeth Roman of The Republican, MassLive, and El Pueblo Latino. Viewers can join the conversation using the hashtag #wgbydialgue on Facebook and Twitter. They can also follow WGBY at and @wgby on

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