21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge kicks off Monday

Community leaders hope to make lasting and actionable impact with daily challenge
Members of the Capital Region Antiracist Community Training Initiative are seen in Schenectady's Gateway Park on July 16.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Members of the Capital Region Antiracist Community Training Initiative are seen in Schenectady's Gateway Park on July 16.

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CAPITAL REGION — Along with other communities nationwide, the Capital Region has planned its own 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge, kicking off Monday and running through Aug. 31. 

The Capital Region Antiracist Community Training Initiative’s version of the challenge — which will email residents daily suggestions for readings, podcasts, videos, observations and other ways to form “community connections” and combat racist behaviors or biases — is designed to delve deeper than just the three-week span of events. 

Dr. Patrick Jean-Pierre said it’s about what happens after those 21 days that makes the biggest difference.

“The 21-Day challenge has great potential to shift the racial dynamic and stimulate racial justice,” said Jean-Pierre, a leader involved in the challenge’s creation and the District Director for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the Schenectady City School District. “However, it is essential that we understand it is just a start, and we are just getting to first base. If we lose sight of that, it will only lead to an outcome that is symbolic and performative in nature.”

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“Those who engage it, must go beyond awareness and acknowledge for many it is not just a 21-day challenge, but is it an everyday challenge. Therefore, you must not treat this as just another exercise, but an opportunity to change your lifestyle in ways that accelerate racial and social justice now, not tomorrow.”

The challenge — a brainchild of Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., Debby Irving and Dr. Marguerite Penick-Parks — found its local adaptation after Junior League President Denise Murphy McGraw heard New York Times bestseller Dr. Ibram X. Kendi speak in Rochester, later inviting him to a launch discussion which took place on July 27. Kendi is the author of the book “How To Be An Antiracist” and McGraw compared his presence to that of a “rockstar.”

“The real willingness to take on this kind of work was palpable in the room,” McGraw said. “Since then, I’ve seen a real difference in Rochester. I was pretty excited about doing something here.”

Last month’s event, also moderated by SUNY Albany Professor of Sociology Dr. Hayward Horton, has since been viewed over 10,000 times, with Horton and other local leaders using their insight to now craft the 21-day challenge. Along with Horton, Jean-Pierre, Erin Belanger, LMHC, of Samaritan Counseling and others are arranging the challenge and its materials. The antiracism project — a collaboration between The Junior League, Proctors Collaborative, Samaritan Counseling, the United Way of the Greater Capital Region, Schenectady County Public Library and other community partners, with The Daily Gazette as a media partner — will launch the Antiracism Training Institute after the challenge for those who want to get involved and help create more change within the community. 

Horton said now is a crucial time to host this challenge in the 518, since white America is “having a moment” when it comes to supporting the Black community. 

“Never in my lifetime have I seen so many white people acknowledge and verbalize systemic racism, but actually protest,” Horton said. “Right now, there’s more white people protesting systemic racism than there are who protested in the Civil Rights Movement… In essence, what we’re talking about is a revolutionary moment. And I feel so privileged to have lived to see it and have an opportunity to make a contribution.”

Belanger is hopeful the event can help community members learn about their own biases and start to pay closer attention to racial equity. 

“It’s wonderful to see the number of people coming together and trying to work toward this very important and common goal,” Belanger said. “It’s a very nice experience to be a part of a group that’s all moving in the same direction… The 21-day challenge is an opportunity to not only help people learn about racial equity and diversity in general, but it’s also an opportunity to help people learn about their own biases as they read more material.”

For more information and to sign up visit: https://www.proctors.org/antiracism/

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