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Black and AAPI Youth to Spend Summer on a Journey of Racial Healing and Artistic Expression

The Love, Unity & Values Institute and the Coalition for a Better AAPI American Community collaborate to foster solidarity, reject biases  

This summer, the Love, Unity & Values (LUV) Institute is partnering with the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) to guide five Black and five Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) teenagers on a six-week journey to promote racial healing, growth, self-identity, and racial solidarity. Through restorative circles, storytelling, poetry and artistic expression, their Racial Healing Collaborative will teach a cohort of youth representing Bronzeville and Chinatown how to identify and address inherent biases, reject stereotypes and build relationships.

The program will run June 25 through August 1. Students will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon at the LUV Institute at 2907 S. Wabash Ave. LUV Institute facilitators will lead a series of restorative circles to allow youth to express themselves and envision what racial healing looks like. An AAPI storyteller, performer and professor of sociology will lead them through an exercise to help the students explore self-identity within the context of family and culture. The youth will translate the values they learn into stories, sketches and poetry, then work with two artists, one Black and one AAPI, who will capture their vision on two 5-foot-tall painted heart sculptures. The Black artist will work with the AAPI students and vice versa. One sculpture will be displayed in Ping Tom Park, 1700 S. Wentworth Ave., in Chinatown. The other sculpture will be featured at a location to be determined in Bronzeville. 

The Racial Healing Collaborative concept grew from the work around racial healing the LUV Institute has done with the Bright Promises Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks solutions to the underrecognized needs of youth most adversely impacted by inequity, said Cosette Nazon-Wilburn, Executive Director of LUV Institute. She and colleague Grace Chan McKibben, Executive Director of the CBCAC, initially began talking about the collaborative effort before the pandemic.  

 “A lot of our work with at-risk youth is focused on how to address our biases and heal from racial, familial and societal traumas,” Nazon-Wilburn said. “It’s an opportunity for young people from two communities that sit side-by-side but rarely interact with one another to create a way forward.”

Chan McKibben said the program is an extension of the #stopasianhate slogan that grew out of a series of random attacks on Asians during the pandemic. While such attacks are rare in Chicago, Chan McKibben said her students have had open discussions about biases that have impacted both Black and Asian communities, such as redlining. 

“Even in schools, students of one racial or ethnic group tend to sit next to one other at the exclusion of others,” Chan McKibben said. “Having young people not only talk about solidarity and collaboration but actually work at it and create things together is a chance for building relationships and understanding.” 

Nazon-Wilburn said: “There’s not much opportunity for collaboration between these students, so it’s important our young people have opportunities like this.”

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