“#HowWeHeal book club tackles race” by Columnist Greg Moore

OPINIONS “Race and Culture” Arizona Republic/USA TODAY NETWORK February 7, 2020

    Sometimes compassion inspires action.

    That’s what happened for Joanne Scott Woods, the Phoenix activist behind the #HowWeHeal book club, which starts next week and aims to provide people of all backgrounds an opportunity to “come together through a shared commitment to racial equity.”

    “I want, passionately, to change the divisiveness in our country,” Scott Woods said.

    The club will meet once a month starting Tuesday to discuss “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies,” by Resmaa Menakem.

    The book has been described as a self-help guide written by a therapist who believes the body holds racial trauma.

    Menakem writes that the damage of racism “will continue until Americans learn to heal the generational anguish of white supremacy, which is deeply embedded in all our bodies. Our collective agony doesn’t just affect African Americans. White Americans suffer their own secondary trauma as well. So do blue Americans – our police.”

    Scott Woods is excited.

    She’s coming off the momentum of helping to bring the national Day of Racial Healing to Arizona.

    To honor Martin Luther King Day, Scott Woods and her supporters joined people in dozens of other cities around the U.S. to pray and meditate and share speeches and proclamations that affirm the inherent value in people from all backgrounds.

    It was Arizona’s first time participating in the 4-year-old movement.

    Supporters got a legislative proclamation read at the State Capitol.

    It began, “Whereas … working earnestly to heal the wounds created by racial, ethnic and religious bias can build an equitable and just society so that all children can thrive…”

    It was signed by State Rep. Reginald Bolding, who concluded the document with a request that people celebrate King’s legacy “beyond a single holiday.”

    Meanwhile, Phoenix’s Mayor Kate Gallego signed a similar proclamation, declaring each Tuesday after King Day from here forward as a Day of Racial Healing in the state’s largest city.

    Scott Woods, a retired educator and counselor, sees the book as an essential next step.

    Maybe. I worry about apathy, exhaustion and resignation.

    I worry that people from privileged backgrounds who might have something to learn about how to be an ally will see the book club and say, “Hey, I’m not a racist. Why should I need that?”

    I worry that blacks and Latinos who might have something to gain from sharing their stories will see the book club and say, “I’m a minority all day, every day. The last thing I want is to spend more time thinking about it.”

    Change can’t come without people talking and listening to one another.

    That’s how Scott Woods, a white woman, got to this point.

    She says her activism started by cleaning up a vandalized memorial for Rumain Brisbon, an unarmed black man who was killed in an encounter with a Phoenix police officer in 2014.

    She ended up going to every city council session and every civilian review board meeting she could to speak out and show support.

    “You get moved when you hear people tell what’s happened to them,” she said. “You see that it’s real. …. I don’t think I was really aware until I heard people speaking from their hearts.”

    At a minimum, her story is a blueprint for how people can get out of their bubbles to work for change.

    She started with compassion and was inspired to action.

     “Racial healing has to be everybody’s responsibility,” she said. “Empathy is going to transform people’s hearts and bodies.”

      Let’s hope she’s right.

     Reach Moore at 602-444-2236 or gmoore@azcentral.com. Follow on Instagram and Twitter

Book Club Details WHEN: 6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 22 WHERE: Barnes & Noble, 10235 N. Metro Parkway East, Phoenix, Arizona 85051 Register: https://tinyurl.com/qw2khve

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