Smithsonian launches two-year racial justice initiative

When Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, announced last year that the organization had received a $ 25 millio...


When Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, announced last year that the organization had received a $ 25 million donation from Bank of America, he envisioned an initiative that would create safe spaces in communities across the country where Americans could come together to discuss the country’s racial past.

The result, “Our Common Future: Taking Our Racial Past Into Account, A two-year series of online and in-person events, kicks off Thursday in Los Angeles with a virtual summit meeting that will focus on income and health care inequalities and include topics ranging from early racial science the distribution of vaccines. The initial event will be broadcast live at oursharedfuture.si.edu, starting at 7 p.m. EST.

“We cannot solve race issues in America on our own,” Bunch said in a phone conversation Monday. “But we can give the public the tools to stimulate those conversations to help people understand race beyond black and white.”

The organization plans conferences, town halls and immersive pop-up experiences in communities across the country for people to share their experiences and increase their understanding of the legacy of race and racism. Bunch said the goal is to encourage conversations between people who might not otherwise cross paths.

“We hope that the Smithsonian can be a place of trust where people with a diversity of political views can engage with each other,” he said.

Museums across the country are factoring in race in their collections, including how to diversify their historically white collections and how to display artifacts from traumatic periods in the country’s history, such as the robes of the Ku Klux Klan, in a context appropriate. But the Smithsonian wanted to take the conversation beyond the walls of the museum, Bunch said.

“In many ways it’s a race initiative,” he said. “But it’s also an initiative on the different ways the Smithsonian can do our work in the future.”

Although arrangements are constantly evolving due to the pandemic, the Smithsonian plans to send a video team to events such as the annual Farm Aid Festival, which will be held this year in Hartford, Connecticut, on September 25, in the hope to collect stories from people about their racial experiences in America.

“We want to make sure that when we talk about the big issues of race and welfare, we reduce them to a human scale,” Bunch said.

Although the program is a two-year pilot, Bunch said he sees the deadline as a starting point, not a deadline.

“We want the relationships we build to last longer,” he said. “If what we are doing has an impact, we will continue to do so. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Smithsonian launches two-year racial justice initiative
Smithsonian launches two-year racial justice initiative
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