SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton unveiled a $4.5 million initiative Tuesday, Oct. 6 that is meant to foster dialogue and promote racial healing in the state.
The Healing Illinois initiative is a grant program launched in partnership with the Chicago Community Trust that will be overseen by the Illinois Department of Human Services. The grants come from the IDHS budget and will go to organizations across the state to foster positive dialogue on race relations and deliberative reckoning on systemic racism and disparities still faced by Black Illinoisans.
The state-funded grants are available to organizations that will use the money to pursue one of the four following activities:
- Promoting dialogue that builds understanding and empathy on issues of race. This involves activities such as facilitated discussions, round tables and speaking events.
- Encouraging collaboration on community projects or ideas, whether in person or virtually. Community murals, storytelling and performance events and racial justice campaigns fall under this umbrella.
- Facilitating learning in areas of racism and racial equity. Eligible projects can take the form of trainings, technical assistance, creating educational materials for community-wide programming, or purchasing educational materials for an organizations staff, board and volunteers.
- Finally, “seeding connection,” which involves activities that “reaffirm the humanity in each of us and uplift what unites us rather than what divides us.” According to the Healing Illinois website, racial healing circles, peace gatherings and activities that pursue restorative justice are examples of projects viable for funding.
“We are dealing with two pandemics—COVID-19 and systemic racism,” Stratton said. “Healing Illinois will advance the conversation and shine a light on the process of collective healing. What we know is hurt people hurt people, and healed people heal people. In Illinois, we are leading the way; moving with all deliberate speed in the direction of justice, equity and opportunity for all.”
The lieutenant governor has played a central role in many of the administrations restorative justice policies. The Justice, Equity and Opportunity Initiative, which centralizes the state’s criminal justice reform efforts and collaborates on various projects meant to address racial equity in Illinois, is based in her office.
IDHS will work with Chicago Community Trust to award the grants in two rounds with organizations set to apply this month. The application deadline for the first round is Oct. 14 and the deadline for the second and final round is Oct. 30.
Organizations can only apply once and must be compliant and certified under the state’s Grant Accountability and Transparency Act. Groups that are not GATA-certified but feel they are a relevant party to Healing Illinois’ mission may be eligible for grants by working through an intermediary approved by Healing Illinois.
Information on how to apply is available at www.healing.illinois.gov.
“Healing Illinois is an opportunity to recognize and understand our common humanity, acknowledge humankind, and build trust amongst communities,” IDHS Secretary Grace Hou said in a news release.
An information session on Healing Illinois was held Thursday, Oct. 8 ahead of the first-round Oct. 14 deadline.
A second information session will be held the day after the first application period closes, on Oct. 15 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Interested parties can preregister for both information sessions online at the Healing Illinois website.
“In order to truly fight inequities and build a better, more inclusive Illinois, we have to be able to articulate the history of personal, institutional and structural racism that got us here – and, just as importantly, the modern iterations of personal, institutional and structural racism that hold us back today,” Pritzker said.