Breakthroughs banner new
July 2013                  Newsletter of Initiatives of Change USA
Issue No. 22




This issue of Breakthroughs addresses the theme of healing.     


Richmond Unity Walk
Twenty years ago the Healing the Heart of America conference in Richmond, VA, featured the city's first walk through its racial history and launched a national movement for honest conversation on race, reconciliation, and responsibility. Two articles look at this on-going journey of healing and the partnerships that have made change possible.


This year in Caux, Switzerland, people from more than 30 countries gathered to address the need for Healing History, Overcoming Racism, Seeking Equity, Building Community. This conference developed more effective global civic engagement around these issues and explored how communities can work together to build trust, heal wounded memory, and create cultures of inclusion and economies that work for all. 


We have included three articles and a video from the conference to give you a taste. Online you will find more blogs, articles and photos. A printed report will follow in September.  

Healing History - Caux, Switzerland
Dreams for the 21st century

Grant Rissler
(CSP 2001) is a PhD student in public policy at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. He writes:


On the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the US Civil War, more than 250 participants of the Healing History: Overcoming Racism, Seeking Equity, Building Community conference heard several compelling visions of what will produce turning points in 21st century efforts to heal divided communities and overcome racism.  


HHCaux video


Gail Christopher, vice president for program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, spoke from the experience of the foundation's America Healing initiative which is investing in bringing healing to divided communities and bridging racial equity gaps in the areas of education, health, juvenile justice, economic success, the media, and other areas...


Alex Wise, chair of the Initiatives of Change US board opened the plenary by observing, "our presence [here] suggests we have something significant in common. We believe that a world still haunted by racism is blemished and distorted, not a creation as God intended it to be." ...

In concluding the session, Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson and biographer of Mahatma Gandhi, spoke of his grandfather's belief that "it may be through the [actions of] African-Americans that the unadulterated message of nonviolence is delivered to the world." Also drawing from the wisdom of Dr. King, he invited participants to reflect on several questions, including what "overriding loyalty to humankind demands of us now." Read more ...
The bias that operates behind our backs

Tim Carrington, journalist and development specialist from Washington, DC, writes:

Many societies and individuals struggle to dismantle the structures of racism and systemic exclusion.

HH Caux john powell
john powell (right)
(Photo: Grant Rissler)
But what about biases that are unconscious, unrecognized, but nonetheless powerful? john powell, Director of the Haas Diversity Research Center at the University of California, Berkley, says that "unconscious prejudice is something that happens behind our back." One of the lead speakers at the Initiatives of Change Healing Histories Conference at Caux, Switzerland, powell warns that biases that operate essentially without our conscious permission are often damaging. They come from widely reinforced signals from the social environment, and all people maintain them to some extent.

"It's cultural," Powell says, but difficult to uproot, since "the unconscious mind speaks a different language than the conscious mind." He adds that "the unconscious couldn't care less about facts and figures" that might be assembled to refute a crippling stereotype or pull down a collective cliché that insults an entire group of people.  Read more ...
The work of our generation

Susan Corcoran, Communications Director, IofC USA, writes:

On one of the final days of the conference Dr. Gail Christopher, vice president of program strategy at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, called for "a global fund for the healing of racism" and said that the business of asserting our true humanity as equal human beings is "the work of our generation."
Gail Christopher (Photo: Grant Rissler)

She said that the Foundation, among the largest in the world, has worked for 20 years in dealing with the denial of opportunity. They have reached the conclusion that racism is at the heart of the issue. Over the past five years the Foundation has invested $100 million in the work for racial equity and racial healing.


Christopher expressed appreciation for the opportunity to engage with a global community. "We are learning from and interacting with brothers and sisters from all over the world."  


Christopher referenced European Enlightenment philosophers who placed white people, who looked liked themselves, at the top of the racial hierarchy. Despite sincere efforts for human rights and civil rights we are still dealing with the consequences of that belief system. "We must be in the business of changing a belief system."


She posed the question, "What do we lose because we deny opportunity to so many people?" Noting that we live in an era of brain research and brain science, she said, "The brain is wired to process stories. We will not always remember data but we will remember stories. It is the way we make meaning of our world. As long as we keep reiterating the stories that are grounded in the false belief of human hierarchy we will not overcome racism. We are learning how to influence the stories that are told." Read more ...

HHA 20 years
Hope in the Cities in a word

Karen Elliott Greisdor
f, photographer and film maker from Bethesda, Maryland, writes of her experience of filming in Richmond, Virginia

Richmond is steeped in history. Close to 30 museums capture the details and determination of the former Capital of the Confederacy. Recently I interviewed 15 Richmonders (native and adoptive) who are writing a new history.

On location to film for an upcoming web short on Hope in the Cities, a program of Initiatives of Change for over 20 years, I traveled from the University of Richmond in the west end to the Fulton community in the east and south over the James River along Hull Street.

After visiting the city and covering Initiatives of Change for nearly two decades, Richmond has come to occupy a significant piece of real estate in my heart and mind for someone who doesn't live there. After the privileged interview time, I am even more deeply impressed and inspired by the women and men who are working to examine the legacies of the past and build an equitable future...


Shooting for the web short, which will be online by the end of the summer, led spontaneously to the creation of an even shorter piece titled "defining Hope in the Cities." At the end of each interview I asked each Richmonder how he or she would define the work of Hope in the Cities. That translated into the piece you can see here.


Defining Hope in the Cities

The city website sports the tagline "Easy To Love". After all these years of journeying south on I-95 from the DC area, I find that this tagline is truer now than ever. But I don't just feel love. I have a deep sense of gratitude and hope for what's yet to come. Read more ...

Richmond's healing spirit spreads 

This column by Rob Corcoran, National Director of IofC USA,  appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 16, 2013. It is reproduced with permission.

Rob Corcoran cropped Twenty years ago on a sweltering June afternoon, Richmonders of all backgrounds from city and suburbs, led by Mayor Walter T. Kenney and Chesterfield County Supervisor Jack McHale, came together in a dramatic act that broke the silence surrounding much of the city's racial history. Through a two-mile walk to mark sites previously too painful or shameful to remember, Richmond became the first US community to give its racial past such public and formal acknowledgement.


This first walk on June 18, 1993, set in motion a sustained movement of honest conversation across the region that continues to gain momentum today. The historic Slave Trail is one of several public history sites that are attaining widespread recognition. The commitment to honor our many different stories, no matter how conflicted, is at the heart of Richmond's healing process.


While the original walk was largely the result of grass-roots action, today the full telling of our history is promoted by the city's Slave Trail Commission and our universities, museums and faith communities. Donald Shriver writes in "Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Admit its Faults": "Like few other cities in the United States, Richmond can now host a civic conversation that involves virtually the whole of the American story."  Read more ...  

We hope you enjoyed this issue of Breakthroughs. Please share this newsletter with your friends and forward it to those you know have a passion for trustbuilding.

Printer-friendly version

Thank you!
In this issue
Dreams for the 21st century
The bias that operates behind our backs
The work of our generation
Hope in the Cities in a word
Richmond's healing spirit spreads
Please consider a
gift to IofC

Sixty percent of our support comes from people just like you!
No gift is too large
or too small.

Donate button 
Become a sustaining donor with a  
monthly gift! 
Metropolitan Richmond Day November 8, 2013   

This lunch forum will be keynoted by
Dr. Gail Christopher 
vice president for program strategy at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Time: 12:00-2:00pm, Location: Omni Richmond
100 South 12th Street, Richmond, VA 23219.
Caux Conferences 2013

Caux logo

June 29-July 3

Just governance  
Exploring the personal qualities needed for effective governance and structures which promote integrity and cooperation

July 3-7 
Healing history   
Overcoming racism, seeking equity, building communit

July 7-11
Dialogue on land and security
Share experience and build partnerships in restoring land, lives and peace.

July 13-19
Trust and integrity in the global economy  
Toward economic justice and environmental stability

July 24-30 
Children as actors in transforming society
The role of children and youth as active citizens

August 1-6 
Learning to live in a multicultural world
Imagining and co-creating a desired future in Europe through intergenerational and intercultural dialogue

August 7-12 
Seeds of inspiration
People sharing the inspiration that shaped their lives

More information available on the Caux website
2012 Annual report cover   
is now available online or can be ordered from our office.
The Power of Silence  
British journalist and author Graham Turner explores the world of silence ... and those who recognize its value.

Read the review online
 by Charles Aquilina

Order from you local bookstore on online  

Trustbuilding Book Cover

Read author    

Rob Corcoran's latest blog,

The Imam & The Pastor 


"The African model for finding peace amid the continent's warring communities"  

The Times (London)  

AAA flyer image An African Answer 

The second film about

the work of these two  

African peacemakers. 

Initiatives of Change

focuses on the link between personal and global change and seeks to inspire, equip, and engage individuals as trustbuilders.
It starts with listening and responding to the still small voice within, applying values of integrity to everyday living, and taking risks to bridge divides.

Visit ourwebsite 
for more information.
Follow-up Links