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Organization seeks to unravel racism

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Will our nation ever be free of racism? One organization believes it’s possible, and they are on a mission to teach America how. 

The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) is a group of anti-racism, multicultural community organizers and educators who have dedicated themselves to social transformation. They believe that racism is a human invention and because it was created intentionally, it can be undone through effective anti-racism organizing.

Child Advocates, a local organization that equips community volunteers and staff to protect children who are victims of child abuse, invited the PISAB to Indianapolis to facilitate a speaker series titled “Undoing Racism” as well as a series of workshops on the same topic.

Cindy Booth, the executive director of Child Advocates, believes the lessons taught in this series will improve the lives of local youth.

“We noticed a disproportionate amount of African-American children in the child welfare system in Indiana. We as a group were talking about what our responsibility was in handling it. A lot of organizations recommended the People’s Institute, and I kept hearing good things about them. We sent someone to check them out, and she came back saying, ‘We have to do this training. I can’t believe the things I learned,’” said Booth.

PISAB facilitated a speech recently at Martin University about the history of racism. Ronald Chisom, executive director and co-founder of PISAB, was the keynote speaker. He believes that even in the Black community there is confusion about what racism is.

“To deal with racism you need more than your opinion or experience. In the Black community, we die more and get stopped by the police more, but we still don’t have a working definition of racism,” said Chisom. “Racism is prejudice plus power. It’s like an equation. Racism is something that was set up years ago. We always talk about fighting the man, but we don’t have a clear analysis about the system.”

Diana Dunn, a trainer and organizer with PISAB agrees with Chisom’s analysis. She believes education is the key to ending racism, and that includes educating people of all races.

“Developing a thing called race allowed us (white people) to stay on top. There is nothing wrong with us, but we gave up our cultures and histories to be elevated as one white people. We could have a world where your outcome cannot be determined by race, and that is what we want,” said Dunn. “Educate yourself about what racism is. You can’t talk about social justice unless you have equity. If you understand racism, you will look at the world differently, but first we need a common definition.”

PISAB’s efforts to educate have been paying off, at least according to Rick Erhardt, a volunteer with Child Advocates who attended the four-part speaker series. Erhardt says he learned a lot during the series that will help increase his efficiency when working with children.

“They brought in people all the way from Texas and New Orleans. It surprised me that, although I try to be knowledgeable, I didn’t know the degree of institutional racism that exists. This event increased my awareness,” said Erhardt.

The message PISAB is sharing will have a much larger audience soon. Child Advocates is creating a documentary titled “Child Advocates: Undoing Racism.” The documentary follows four people through a two-day workshop facilitated by PISAB. Child Advocates hopes the documentary will air on WFYI in early 2017.

“We are putting the final touches on the documentary. It’s an important message. It’s a very clear and forthright examination of institutional racism,” Booth said. “I am such a fan, because of the difference in my own life regarding my role as a white woman and what that means to the children I serve. I want people to see that they can impact their own spheres of influence.”


Child Advocates plans to bring the workshops back to Indianapolis in February of 2017. These events are free and open to the public. Child Advocates needs to recruit and train an additional 100 volunteers in order to continue to provide the quality representation children deserve. For more information, visit childadvocates.net. 

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