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Peoria Summit Addresses Racial Justice and Equity

Illinois Central College

Illinois Central College is partnering with Peoria Public Schools to discuss racial justice and equity.

The college is hosting a two-day summit this week to encourage dialogue on efforts to narrow student achievement gaps. Organizers say those barriers can prevent minority students from obtaining employment in high demand careers.

Keynote speaker Meghan Burke is an associate professor of Sociology at Illinois Wesleyan University. She’s also the author the book, "Colorblind Racism." Burke says contemporary racism isn’t always obvious.

“I don’t think we want to fully say that because it lets us off the hook a little bit too much. But I do believe it’s simply how we learn to talk and think about race. And we can learn other ways. We can overcome some of those barriers even in our own education, and with that we can be empowered to think and, more importantly, act differently.”

Burke admits dialogue on achieving social justice can be daunting. But, says she believes difficult discussions can result in methods to reduce barriers for minority success.

Dr. Rita Ali is ICC’s Vice President of Diversity and Community Impact. She says the summit’s goal is to craft concrete action steps, specifically for Peoria Public School students.

“There’s gaps in achievement for African-American students compared to other students. So, you know, those are gaps we need to close and we have to work together,” says Ali.

The Peoria Summit on Racial Justice and Equity wraps up Friday at ICC.

Kristin McHugh is an experienced radio journalist and nonprofit manager. Most recently, she served as executive director of the Peoria Area World Affairs Council.