Who: The HBCU Truth & Reconciliation Oral History Project is sponsored by seven Historically Black Colleges or Universities and two Texas independent universities. Its title sponsor is Wiley College of Marshall, TX and is supported by Texas Southern University, Prairie View A&M University, Southwestern Christian University, Jarvis Christian College, St. Philip’s College, and Huston-Tillotson University along with Baylor University, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the United States Christian Leadership Organization.
When: February 18, 2017 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Doors open at 8:00 am.
Where: Texas Southern University Law Center; 3100 Cleburne Street, Houston, TX 77004. Phone: (713) 557-6520 & (713) 313-4455. Parking: Texas Southern University parking garage located directly across the street from TSU Law Center at the corner of Cleburne and Tierwester streets. Interviewees please arrive one hour before your scheduled interview time.
What: Student conducted interviews of experiences of racial discrimination of loved ones of color of African American and Latino/a origin
In our efforts to heal from the effects of racial discord in America we must be willing to expose and hear the experiences of those who have suffered. Only by truly listening to those most impacted can we begin the process of healing and reconciliation.
The HBCU Truth & Reconciliation Oral History Project is an endeavor that uses the power of spoken and documented words to heal and create spiritual and social change.
It seeks to do this by asking ordinary loved ones of color to share personal stories of racial discrimination and its impact upon them, in an effort to be heard, and then documenting them. These stories and, their related research, will be used to foster healing at the personal level and reconciliation at the national level, as well as inform policy changes within the political environment and spiritual changes within the ecumenical one–all done from a grassroots and common person’s perspective. The story of Exodus and of the Bible tells us the mere fact of being heard activates the compassion and healing power of God of which the United States and its current racial environment so desperately need.
Participating academic institutions will capture these stories using theoretical and historical research methodology to ensure the accounts are accurately gathered, processed, researched, and archived to promote academic thought and spiritual praxis relating to building relationships, racial discrimination, and its resolution.
The project is needed because people throughout this country need healing and an advancement of equality in a more lasting and relational way. While working as community organizers, it was noticed that people repeated the same stories of experiences with racial discrimination over and over and seemed to be more interested in telling their story than addressing a course of action. After a while it was realized that healing was taking place as they told their stories and, as the stories were heard, organizers learned to listen—over and over again. In addition to initiating healing, this process also serves to humanize and validate experiences as it was also recognized that writing down the stories told was just as important, as accounts take on a different and specific significance when the storyteller sees it written. When these stories were shared in the community without documenting them many discounted them as a covering for their own failures. As such, documenting serves as “forensic” evidence—for the sake of the storyteller—in the face of communal disbelief. Together, the telling and the documentation complements each other, providing reason and legitimacy to both the storyteller and those hearing the story.
The project’s themes are manifold and will use story, tactically, to marshal The Church, initiate healing, serve as evidence, improve communication, inform public policy, provide for grassroots organizing, and advance research developed by the academy and HBCUs in support of their natural constituency. Incremental results will demonstrate that, “If we could talk,” we could address such difficult issues as—why institutionalized racism is so difficult to see and change.
The stories will be used to marshal The Church, and its compassion, because its “morally” authoritative. These stories will be employed to encourage The Church to take a leading role in matters of racial equality and relationship building, because, as these stories will tell, people are hurting. The Church is the natural organization to address this issue, and when it has done so, it did through story—particularly the story of an oppressed people called to promote relationships.
People listen to stories when they can’t hear facts and figures and we expect to use story in a creative way to facilitate “Church-led” and “Church-enabled” communication, along with its authority, to develop and cultivate relationships that will advance equality, to a lesser extent through informing and educating policy-makers, but, even more so, by appealing to the heart of humanity.