“Yes, We DO Need to Talk About Race”

December 1, 2014

Communities In Schools of Chicago
NAVIGATE: “Yes, We DO Need to Talk About Race”

Facilitated by Eileen Hogan Heineman and Gloria J. Woods, Co-Directors, Racial Justice Programs at YWCA Evanston/North Shore
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.


Definition of Race: “Term used to refer to groupings of people according to common origin or background, and associated with perceived biological markings. Race is a recent idea, created to account for differences among people and to justify colonization, conquest, enslavement, and social hierarchy among people.” (Taken from from Race: Are We So Different, A Project of the American Anthropological Association. http://www.understandingrace.org/home.html)



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Essential Highlights:

  • Discuss difficulties for engaging in conversations about race.
  • Build skills for creating intentional spaces for dialogue and asking questions to engage in conversations about race.
  • Experience: Self-guided tour of the RACE: Are We So Different? exhibition
  • Listen to others’ personal stories.


Full from their Thanksgiving meals, attendees from 27 different agencies attended the second training of our NAVIGATE series to engage in conversations about race. The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center was gracious to host the event so that attendees could also view the RACE: Are We So Different? exhibition.

Co-facilitators for the day – Gloria J. Woods and Eileen Hogan Heineman – began the morning with a question:

What might make it hard to talk about “race” with your students?


In small groups, attendees shared their thoughts and experiences. Then, Gloria and Eileen shared definitions of…




…and asked attendees to REFLECT on what the definitions mean for each person and to consider:

“What do you need to know or do

to feel confident in conversations around racial issues?”

After the “warm-up” presentation and small group discussion, attendees were invited to explore the exhibit, “RACE: Are We Really So Different?” They roamed the exhibit, prompted to think about their own lingering questions, similarities and differences between races, and encouraged to listen to videos of peoples’ stories.

Attendees returned to the large group and reflected individually on how they were feeling, something that was surprising or challenging, and what additional questions were raised as a result of the exhibit.

As the morning drew to a close, Gloria and Eileen recommended practicing the following:

  • Listening with empathy, for understanding
  • Acknowledgement of multiple perspectives, or both sides
  • Willingness to ask questions

Finally, attendees were encourage to consider 1) What do you want to learn more about? and 2) Whom might you want to have a conversation? as next steps. As a summary to the morning, Eileen and Gloria emphasized that discussing race is difficult but necessary.


Materials from Event:


Participating Organizations:

Adventure Stage Chicago
Anixter Center
Anti-Defamation League
Barrel of Monkeys
Between Friends
Brain Surgeon Theater
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Chicago Park District
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Women’s Health Center
Cook County Sheriff Youth Services
Dunamis Community Advocate Services
Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago
Free Street Theater
HEART Chicago
I Am We
LifeConsults, Inc.
Lookingglass Theatre Company
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Northlight Theatre
Rape Victim Advocates
Silber screens, Inc.
Spudnik Press Cooperative
The Peace Exchange
Writers Theatre



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