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Healing, Belonging, and Unity Highlighted at Race & Social Justice Summit

Featured speakers—Dr. Ben Danielson, filmmaker Gilda Sheppard, Rachel Heaton, community leaders and city staff

Seattle, WA – The Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), in partnership with Seattle Center and Converge Media, will host its annual RSJI Summit event on March 23 and 24 as a hybrid event. This is the first time the Summit will have in-person portions since the pandemic began. Keeping an emphasis on accessibility, the Summit will have livestreamed portions on both days, with a Community Day recap on March 24.

Pandemic recovery is a central theme for the Summit. The theme of “Healing, Belonging, and Unity” shapes the core parts of the convening, with arts and culture bookending the event. Dr Ben Danielson will do the opening keynote. Documentary filmmaker Gilda Sheppard will bring the struggles of incarcerated people and their families into the conversation. Reflections Dance Festival is the culminating celebration for the Summit, in partnership with Waterfront Seattle and dancers and cultural practitioners sharing this special “love letter to the city”.

The RSJI Summit is a major touchstone for city staff. The Summit starts on March 23 with City of Seattle staff doing a deep dive with community into public health, mass incarceration, and food sovereignty. “Inspiration is a critical tool of equity right now. Our communities are asking for fresh insight on how we all can thrive together,” RSJI Division Director Davida Ingram said. “That brings past, present, and future into clear view as we proactively dream of a City of Seattle without racial disparities. I’d always bet on our creativity and love ethic to help lead the way.”

“The Seattle Office for Civil Rights wants the community to have the RSJI Summit as a space to learn some of the important equity work the city is doing to address ongoing and new challenges we are all facing right now,” said SOCR Director Derrick Wheeler Smith. Much of the Summit explores how life in Seattle can still improve, even with rumors of an economic slowdown in the news. A Civil Rights Round-Up, conversations about transformative justice, and a spotlight on participatory budgets will also be part of the March 23 closing recap and Community Day.

Event information and registration links:

Thursday, March 23: Staff Day, Main Stage Livestreamed with Converge Media

March 23 features an opening keynote from Dr. Ben Danielson, followed by a conversation with Gilda Sheppard, the director of the award-winning documentary Since I Been Down. Panels, workshops, and breakout sessions for employees at the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Library, and Seattle Housing Authority will take place in the afternoon.

Friday, March 24: Community Day, Livestreamed with Converge Media

March 24 is a free livestream event open to all. Community Day will feature a recap of highlights from March 23, as well as new sessions with City of Seattle staff that apply anti-racist principles to pandemic recovery. The Summit will close with a screening of Reflections Dance Festival, presented by Seattle Public Library. Register here.

More information about the Summit can be found on the RSJI website.

About the Race and Social Justice Initiative

RSJI is the City of Seattle’s commitment to eliminate racial disparities and achieve racial equity in Seattle. When RSJI began in 2004, it was the first of its kind in the United States to focus explicitly on dismantling institutional racism. The Initiative builds on the work of the civil rights movement and the ongoing efforts of individuals and groups in Seattle to confront racism and other forms of oppression. RSJI is a division of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.

About the Seattle Office for Civil Rights

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) works to advance civil rights and end barriers to equity. SOCR enforces laws against illegal discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and contracting within Seattle city limits. SOCR leads the Race and Social Justice Initiative, a citywide effort to end institutional racism in City government and to achieve racial equity across our community.

About Seattle Center

Connect to the extraordinary at Seattle Center, an active civic, arts, and family gathering place in the core of our city and region. Seattle Center’s 74-acre campus, centered around the International Fountain, is part of the Uptown Arts & Cultural District and home to Climate Pledge Arena; more than 30 cultural, educational, sports and entertainment organizations; and a broad range of public and community programs. In everything it does, Seattle Center’s mission is to create exceptional events, experiences, and environments which delight and inspire the human spirit to build stronger communities.