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What are Truth Commissions

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This program aired Friday, October 2 at 12 PM EST

What are Truth Commissions and why are they important? Join The Center for a discussion on how to address our history through a process of truth-telling to allow for racial healing and societal transformation. This panel will explore how truth commissions have been utilized around the world, the difference between reconciliation and transformation and the need for healing, and the possibilities for such a commission to be established in the US on both local and national levels. Moderator Jill Savitt, President and CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will lead the discussion with panelists Esther Anne, Board Member for Maine-Wabanaki REACH; Dr. Gail Christopher, Executive Director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity; Nelson and Joyce Johnson, Co-Executive Directors of Beloved Community Center; and special guest US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Representative of the 13th District of California. This program is a part of the Interfaith Response to White Supremacy series.



Jill Savitt
CEO, National Center of Civil and Human Rights


Esther Anne
Board Member for Maine-Wabanaki REACH

Esther Anne, Passamaquoddy from Sipayik, joined the Muskie School of Public Service in 2003 where she works on projects that engage and benefit tribal communities including facilitating the Maine tribal-state Indian Child Welfare Act workgroup and creating child welfare resources with the Capacity Building Center for Tribes. She had a primary role in the creation and establishment of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Maine-Wabanaki REACH. Esther now serves as secretary for the REACH Board of Directors and on the Fundraising Development Committee. She lives in the Penobscot community of Indian Island near her adult children and grandchildren.

Dr. Gail Christopher
Executive Director, National Collaborative for Health Equity

Dr. Gail C. Christopher is an award-winning social change agent and former Senior Advisor and Vice President of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), one of the world’s largest philanthropies.

She is the visionary for and architect of the WKKF led Truth Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) effort for America. TRHT is an adaptation of the globally recognized Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) model. TRHT evolved from the decade long WKKF America Healing, racial equity and racial healing initiative, designed and led by Dr. Christopher. Over the last ten years she has had responsibility for several other areas of foundation programming. These include, Food, Health and Well-Being, Leadership, Public Policy, Community Engagement and place-based funding in New Orleans and New Mexico.

In August of 2017, Dr. Christopher left her leadership position with WKKF to launch the Maryland based Ntianu Center for Healing and Nature; and to devote more time to writing and speaking on issues of health, racial healing and human capacity for caring. She is currently Chair of the Board of the Trust for America’s Health and a Fellow of The National Academy of Public Administration.

Nelson and Joyce Johnson
Co-Executive Directors of Beloved Community Center

In 1979, Nelson Johnson led the labor and civil rights march that ended with five deaths and became known as “the Greensboro Massacre.” In 2004, Johnson and his wife, Joyce, launched an unprecedented American experiment to deal with the confusion, hurt, blame and injustice rooted in that fateful day. Modeled on the process Nelson Mandela used in post-apartheid South Africa, their Truth and Reconciliation Commission aired the grievances that kept their community from moving forward. Led by residents and nonprofits, Greensboro became an open classroom as thousands took part in hearings, town hall meetings, petition drives and more. The Johnsons brought labor, women’s, civic and religious groups to the table to improve the lives of the disenfranchised. They brought former U.S. Nazis to face relatives of their victims, helping both to release long-held pain. Rev. Johnson is now counseling Mississippi officials on how to conduct a similar commission, while working to create a peace treaty among local gangs in Greensboro.


  • National Collaborative for Health Equity

    Working in coalition with partners and other movement building organizations, the National Collaborative seeks to be a repository of knowledge and innovation in health equity.

    We recognize and honor the deep knowledge, power, and resiliency of communities of color, and leverage that power to promote solutions that help create healthier more sustainable places to live, work and play.

  • Maine Wabanaki REACH

Wabanaki REACH is a cross-cultural collaboration that successfully supported the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

REACH is implementing the Commission’s recommendations, focused on Wabanaki health, wellness and self-determination and community building.

REACH envisions and prepares for a future where Maine and Wabanaki people join together, acknowledging truth, promoting healing and creating change.

  • Upstander Project

    “We serve mass and targeted audiences by challenging indifference to injustice and raising awareness of the need for upstanders, especially among teachers and their students.

    With original documentaries, related learning resources, and educator workshops, the Upstander Project helps teachers and students become upstanders.”

  • United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation.

  • Transforming Historical Harms

  • The Beloved Community Center

    Our mission, working together with others, is to forge and continually expand a quality of leadership and beloved community to guide Greensboro into a new era of equitable economic sufficiency, peace, social, gender and racial justice that can serve as a model and inspiration for ourselves, our region, and our nation.


  • Become an ambassador for the Campaign for Equal Dignity and invite 10 friends to join the Campaign today.Some sample text to share includes:

    • We all deserve #EqualDignity: access to health security, quality education, voting rights, economic stability, & justice for all. These are our civil & human rights. Check out & sign the pledge at www.equaldignity.org.

    • One person, organization, or family cannot define what #EqualDignity is for us all. We believe it is access to health security, quality education, voting rights, economic stability, & justice for all. Join & sign the pledge for Equal Dignity at www.equaldignity.org.

    • Join our effort to reaffirm our belief of #EqualDignity & add your own beliefs too. A nation built by the people should have rights #ForThePeople. Learn more & sign the pledge at www.equaldignity.org


October 2, 2020
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm