Dr. Gail Christopher is an award winning social change agent and former Senior Advisor and Vice President of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
In August of 2017, Dr. Christopher left her leadership position with the foundation to launch the Ntianu Center for Healing and Nature. She will speak at TedXCharlottesville on Friday, November 8, 2019. She recently spoke with WMRA’s Chris Boros who asked her to talk about the center.
Dr. Gail Christopher: It’s been a lifelong commitment of mine to memorialize my first born child. Her name was Ntianu and she died in infancy and it was really her loss that started my career, my search for answers to health and well being and holistic healing. Here at the center we train people and give them the skills and capacities to go back to their communities and do racial healing circles and racial healing work.
WMRA: What happens in a racial healing circle?
GC: People from very diverse backgrounds and beliefs and experiences come together for serveral hours and they pair up with people who are different from themselves as well as do work in the circle itself. But they hear authentic stories that are prompted by questions. There’s built into the design this focus on our common humanity. So people come out of the experience with a deeper heart felt connection to one another.
WMRA: Was it hard for you to leave such a prominent organization like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to start your own thing?
GC: Well I feel I was privileged to be within the foundation, to influence the distribution of literally over a billion dollars in resources for social programs and social good. But I really wanted to focus on giving people the skills and capacities on writing and I’ve delivered over seventy key note addresses since I left the foundation. And I felt that it was time for me to focus my energy on delivering that message and helping to build a capacity of others to do the same.
WMRA: When you were at WK Kellogg, you were the architect of Truth Racial Healing and Transformation Effort for America. Can you talk about that and if it’s still going in?
GC: Yes, it is an American adaptation of the globally recognized Truth and Reconciliation process. So we recognized that our country had never done that as a nation, so it was time for us to really do this work of telling the truth and then we have to transform fundamentally our perceptions of one another, and then we have to transform the society to reflect that change in our belief system.
WMRA: How do you change someone’s belief system?
GC: It’s not easy but you have to move past denial that you have this crazy belief. And we all do. You cannot be a part of American society and not at some level have these racial hierarchy based biases. So the first step is overcoming denial of that fact, and then dealing with the consequences of that fact and ultimately it’s the feelings. The real work of changing beliefs is addressing what we fear and also enhancing our capacity to extend love and compassion and empathy.
WMRA: You’ll be in Charlottesville for the TedX event. What can we expect from your talk?
GC: Well you’ve heard a lot of it already. I’ll probably tell a little more of the personal journey but I am going to talk about racial healing and I’m going to put out a call for action. If we’re going to realize our aspirations of democracy, we have to realize the barrier to that is this legacy of a belief in a hierarchy of human value. And we have to decide to jettison that belief and replace it with a sense of our interdependence and our sacred interconnectedness of a human family.