GETS REAL: Jacksonville nonprofit helping tackle racism one ‘race card’ at a time

GETS REAL: Creating a conversation about racism

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax is celebrating Black History Month with a look to the future.

A local nonprofit is battling division in our country by using dialogue to create understanding, starting with getting back to basics.

“How did you first become aware of racism?”

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“At what age do you think children become aware of race?”

Those are just some of the questions you’ll find by pulling out a stack of “race cards.”

“How did this idea for race cards come about?” asked Lorena Inclán.

“It was really organic and authentic. It was friends who were really just off put by a lot of the videos that were going viral of people being killed, of Ferguson, you name it. The injustices were piling up,” said Dr. Kimberly Allen.

Dr. Allen is the president of 904WARD, a Jacksonville-based nonprofit with a clear mission.

“Our vision is very simple. We want an end to racism so that everybody thrives in our city,” said Dr. Allen.

But addressing racial injustices in a way that creates constructive dialogue is not easy.

“The conversations were difficult, quite frankly. There was a lot of tears in trying to understand some of the experiences of our colleagues of color to try to understand the experiences of our white colleagues and figuring out a path forward,” she said.

And that’s the point.

Dr. Allen said having the tough conversations isn’t meant to be easy, it just needs to happen.

“We have to be willing to engage in those conversations, no matter how difficult,” she said.

Dr. Allen credits the success of race cards to the fact that 904WARD has fostered a safe space where people can feel comfortable.

“It’s not antagonistic but it really is about learning from each other’s experiences and listening to each other,” said Dr. Allen.

The hope is maybe if we start listening to each other again, we’ll start to see we have more in common than we think.

“If we are to adequately heal, if we are to learn to celebrate our differences of what makes us all unique and what strengthens the fabric of our society, we have got to listen — and not listen to respond but listen to understand,” said Dr. Allen.

Soon, the conversation will go digital because 904WARD has received funding from Mayo Clinic’s “EverybodyIN Fund for Change,” a program that will help the nonprofit develop a race cards app.