‘Together We Rise’ addresses racial issues

Huntington community members gathered at Huntington High School to discuss racial issues on a local and national scale in an effort to join together Thursday.

“Together We Rise: A Community Conversation on Race” took place in the cafeteria of Huntington High School and was facilitated by United Way of the River Cities. Together We Rise aims “to build bridges among ethnic groups locally and work towards solutions by committing to being part of the change we hope to see in the Tri-state area,” according to a statement on the event’s Facebook page. Thursday’s event is the second of three events to address issues of racism in the community.

“This is a journey we have undertaken,” United Way of the River Cities Executive Director Laura Gilliam said. “There will be many other parts of this and much else that needs to take place.”

Donte’ L. Jackson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Huntington, expressed that Together We Rise has been a process to form, but he and others at United Way of the River Cities felt that the series was important and necessary. As a member of the organization’s board of directors, Jackson was a part of the beginning discussions about Together We Rise.

“I was asked to meet with our executive director about this important conversation that we felt needed to be had,” Jackson said. “It actually began as a grant proposal, so that we would actually have funding to have these series of events. The proposal fell through, but the executive director really felt it was still important to have this conversation.”

This issue is one that seemingly affects all people, young to old, as the crowd that poured into the Huntington High cafeteria was a mixture of ages, races and occupations. For people like Jackson, who was a speaker at the event, this is exactly the goal.

“We have allowed the television to dictate what we think about one another as opposed to having a conversation with one another,” Jackson said, “and I thought that it was important that we go right at that narrative and say, ‘listen, we are going to create a safe environment to have these tough conversations, and we are going to have them, but at the end of the day we are going to build relationships, and we’re going to come together and we’re going to learn from each other, so that we can rise together.’”

United Way of the River Cities will host one more Together We Rise event for this series, but the date and time of which has not yet been decided upon.

United Way of the River Cities is a nonprofit organization whose mission, according to their mission statement, is to partner with its diverse and united community to solve its greatest issues.

Franklin Norton can be contacted at [email protected]