CH@T: Social Justice Exchanges highlight CORE’s busy slate of activities

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CORE (Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity) is a Chatham-based volunteer-led organization working to build a broad-based coalition of individuals, nonprofits, and community groups. Its mission is to deconstruct systemic inequities and achieve equitable outcomes for everyone in Chatham County through education, organizing, and reconciliation.

This week, we speak with CORE’s Karinda Roebuck about a new initiative the organization has launched: Chatham Social Justice Exchanges. The exchanges, she says, are just that — “an exchange focused on the brutal realities of racism and the desire to be part of changing that reality.”

Roebuck, CORE’s executive director, can be reached at karindaroebuck@me.com.

How did the idea for Chatham Social Justice Exchanges come about?

The Chatham Social Justice Exchange (CSJE) is a collaboration and began from the successful model in Saxapahaw. The Saxapahaw Social Justice Exchange was created by a group of people that bring the community together to discuss and raise awareness about injustices in America. It was born out of the pain of incessant violence against people of color. Originally CSJE was hosted here in Chatham and facilitated by the fabulous LaShauna Austria of Kindred Seedlings Farm and Seeds of Change Consulting; however, due to funding restrictions it ended.

CORE recognized the importance of CSJE’s work, and the space it held was sacred for relationship building. Rather than letting that work go to waste, CORE found a way to partner with LaShauna and bring CSJE within our organization.

Our first gathering was supported by community with 50 people registered and 42 in attendance as folks seem to be really eager to engage in conversations and collectively build together.

Our marketplace is a beautiful way for community to experience the abundance and support of community. Both the offers and asks were meaningful and lead to more connections within the group.

We plan to meet monthly and continue to build on this going forward.

What’s the goal of these monthly gatherings?

The Chatham Social Justice Exchange is just that — an exchange. Specifically, it is an exchange focused on the brutal realities of racism and the desire to be part of changing that reality. It is an intentional space reserved for meaningful conversations, testimonies, and the exchange of ideas, resources, and actions for people who are committed to a path of racial equity and justice. The goal is to build community by fostering a deeper understanding of how these injustices affect all of us.

Our monthly gatherings are designed to meet people where they are, wherever that happens to be on their journey. We invite participants in the room to introduce and facilitate “table talks,” which are engaging small group discussions around pressing topics, such as white privilege, environmental racism, local politics, food networks, and reconciliation processes.

What does “building community” mean to you, and why is it important?

Building community means bringing people together to develop and to deepen relationships through sharing stories about their experiences, concerns, and values. Sharing oral narratives is a long-honored tradition that fosters trust, dignity, and respect for our fellow community members. Building community leads to community organizing which is organizing ourselves around our common humanity and a common agenda to work together in achieving community-driven solutions to the issues in Chatham.

How do you hope to engage the Chatham community as a whole in this work?

We hope to create a space for Chatham residents who believe in equity and social justice to come together and learn to organize together and make changes for the issues impacting their families and communities. We hope to create space for the Chatham Community as a whole to engage in civil discourse around these difficult topics and how they affect all of us individually and collectively. CSJE is about active listening and active participation in the act of listening to one another and building the trust, respect, and dignity that comes with our strengthened relationships.

Meanwhile, you’ve raised in excess of $11,000 in your fall donor drive. How will those funds be used?

We are so humbled by the outpouring of support for our organization and would love to pause here and just say, “Thank you!” With the success of our first donor drive, we are able to enter 2022 with the inclusion of more programs, educational offerings, and potentially more staff.

CSJE is going to continue in the new year under our soon-to-launch Community Reconciliation Project. In an effort to advance behavioral health in Chatham County, CORE’s Community Reconciliation Project is centered on supporting community members in increasing self-awareness and addressing the impact of racial trauma within themselves, their families and communities.

The project will address behavioral health holistically by sharing personal stories, identifying healthy coping skills and stress management techniques, advocating for rest and wellness, and creating community support systems. CORE will do this in collaboration with behavioral health practitioners and will work with partners to introduce alternative modalities of treatment for stress and trauma.

The Community Reconciliation Project will build healthy and sustainable relationships across communities, cultivating support and allyship, which will allow us to better manage the physical and psychological impact of structural racism.

Additionally, our education program will be able to offer four Community Conversations or lectures/webinars free to the public. We will also be able to offer more scholarships to our fall and spring Racial Equity Fundamentals workshops as well as begin offering our newest community workshop, Shifting Power Series.

We have also been able to increase the budget for our 5th annual Juneteenth in 2022. We have a very busy 2022 planned.

For more information, visit our website.

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