People: Community comes together to heal racial tensions post-election

Erica Thompson

The election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States has elicited myriad responses: a call for an end to the Electoral College, vote recount efforts - in which Hillary Clinton's campaign will participate - and protests throughout the nation, including Central Ohio.

"People are hungry for action," said Jennifer Sconyers, a community organizer and founder of Abundance Leadership Consulting, LLC. "I was invited to a number of discussions after the election about, well, 'What do we do?'"

To help answer that question, Sconyers, along with a team of others - Founder of RDR Strategic Communications Rhonda D. Robinson, nurse and community activist Jessica Roach and Kirwan Institute Senior Faculty Research Advisor and OSU professor Maurice Stevens - have organized a Post-Election Racial Healing Summit, which will take place Thursday, Dec. 8 at Rhema Christian Center.

Sconyers, who acknowledged the sentiment that people are "tired of talking," insists the summit is designed to facilitate activity.

"This is an opportunity for us to come into the community and figure out what we want, take action steps and be bold," she said.

Sconyers selected a team of panelists "who are genuinely in the work," she said. They include Roach, Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown, Kalitha Williams of Policy Matters Ohio, Nathaniel Angel, who worked at the Ohio Democratic Party, Judge Terri Jamison and Africentric Personal Development Shop CEO Jerry Saunders. Sconyers will serve as the emcee.

Sconyers' desire to hold the event, which she brainstormed prior to the election, went beyond merely disliking the president-elect.

"It wasn't just about a winner versus a loser," she said. "This election felt like it was really an election on our values [and] the type of country we want to be moving forward."

Sconyers said she and others she knows found Trump's language harmful. "Like it was OK to make fun of people with disabilities, and it seemed OK to say things to women that were inappropriate [and] it was OK to show that he was an Islamophobe," she said.

She also perceived "boldness in bigotry" among some Americans.

"It was very clear to me that, no matter who won or lost, we should bring our community back together … with an acknowledgment of what this election cycle did … knowing that people had very different experiences with it [and] some were very personal," she said.

Roach, who is of mixed racial heritage, recounted an encounter in a gas station in Indiana. "A woman that approached me who clearly couldn't quite make out what my ethnicity was … looked at me and said, 'I can't wait until we send all of you back on the other side of the wall,'" Roach said. "I said, 'Ma'am, I appreciate the compliment in comparison to my Mexican sisters, but I'm black.'… And as she turned her back to me and walked out the door, she called me a 'fucking nigger.'"

Roach said she also has "a very deep fear and concern" for people of Somali descent following a Nov. 28 incident on the Ohio State campus where a Somali student attacked and wounded 11 people before being shot and killed by campus police. She noticed people online were utilizing the event to characterize Islam as a threat to the country.

Roach hopes to help members of these communities feel validated and help them manage through self-care.

It's a role she will take on at the Healing Summit, which will also include a segment where participants will break into small groups for further discussion.

"We've all found that any more than six people [per group] means that not everyone has a voice," Sconyers said.

Among the more than 200 people registered as of Nov. 28, Sconyers is expecting - and encouraging - people of all ethnicities, including white allies, and political backgrounds to attend.

"This is a space that was meant for everyone, intentionally," she said. "We do want to hear differing opinions."

Sconyers also admits the panelists are "left of center" because those are the people in her inner-circle. "I'm acknowledging that bias and I think that's a symptom of what we saw this election cycle," she said. "We're all self-siloed. … If someone who supported Trump wants to come, I think they should be there. It's helpful to get some other perspectives in this space because we've been talking to ourselves for a long time now."

No matter who shows up, the space will remain safe, especially for marginalized communities, Roach said.

Although the event is free, guests are required to register and sign in, and there will be follow-up correspondence with details for next steps.

"None of us has the luxury of sitting by and hoping that someone else will figure this out," Sconyers said. "That's just not where we are. It's up to us."

Post-Election Racial Healing Summit

6-8 p.m. Thursday,

Dec. 8

Rhema Christian Center

2100 Agler Rd.,

North Side