Friday, August 28, 2015

Winter Institute promotes racial reconciliation; started in Mississippi, now in other states

President Barack Obama sang "Amazing Grace" in his address to Charleston's Emanuel A.M.E. Church nine days after nine Bible study attendees were killed there. He also said of state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, one of the deceased, that she "knew that the path of grace involves an open mind," says an op-ed piece from the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. "But more importantly, an open heart."

The Winter Institute, formed in 1999 by former Mississippi Gov. William Winter at the University of Mississippi, worked only in that state for 11 years, but then heard from people in Ferguson, Mo., after Michael Brown was killed by a local policeman. Now people are working in South Carolina to create a racial reconciliation institute like the Winter Institute.

The Institute says it created Welcome Table New Orleans when the city requested it. The Welcome Table helped community people "build bridges of trust to hold the weight of the truths they must tell one another," the piece says. The program currently works with 18 communities, and now demand exceeds what the institute can provide.

"Momentum is growing toward change, which begins locally, person-to-person, in communities where trust has frayed as separation has grown," the piece says. The institute's "Welcome Table is being recognized as a useful tool in helping communities beyond Mississippi heal and pursue equity."

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