By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
In order to help the nation move forward to live in unity despite the recent racial unrest in the United States, Project Unity, a local non-profit organization to help heal the racial divides in Dallas, launched a national initiative called Together We Can.
The initiative was co-founded by Rev. Richie Butler, senior pastor of Saint Luke “Community” United Methodist Church and Dallas Attorney and former Dallas Bar Association President Rob Crain. Honorary co-chairs included Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall, WFAA sports journalist Dale Hansen, KTCK-AM Sports Radio Broadcaster Gordon Keith and Philanthropist Jorge Baldor.
Butler said he was inspired because he wanted to do something to address the questions he had about tackling race related issues by others.
“As an African American I feel that so many calls from my White brothers and sisters in response to George Floyd’s murder and the question that I got was what can I do?,” Butler said. “I want you to know today as we present Together We Can, it is simply in response to that question, what can I do? We believe it addresses the immediate, the intermediate and with the long term in terms of what we can do both individually and collectively. We are launching this here in Dallas, but the vision is that this will become national and we wanted to catch fire all over the nation.”
Butler said the initiative was not a sprint, but a marathon and that they are committed to the long-term work of the initiative as well as the work of Project Unity.
“Our goal with Together We Can is we like to create and build and bridge and create more allies than we do adversaries in this work around race, racism, race relations and social justice,” Butler said. “We are fighting and seeing and developing and creating more allies. If Black people could have solved the issue of racism don’t you know it would have been solved by now? We need our White brothers and sisters to join us and to honestly take the lead.”
Crain explained his passion behind becoming co-founder of the initiative.
“I have been struggling as others with the same skin color as mine as to what is the answer to the question of what can I do to help make positive change against racism in this country,” Crain said. “I have been grappling at this for quite a while. George Floyd’s murder occurred, and I said, ‘We got to figure this out, we got to do this.’ That’s the origin of Together We Can.”
Crain said the mission of the initiative is to educate, enable and empower a lifestyle of mindfulness and action against racism.
“This is a lifestyle,” Crain said. “This is not a one-time event. A one-time going to and listening to a speaker, this is a lifestyle. When we start talking about a lifestyle of mindfulness it really comes to starting from the inside and working out for individual participants, as well for our community that is going to be impacted by Together We Can.”
Participants of the initiative are asked to do three things.
“One is to wear a Together We Can bracelet,” Crain said. “We will provide those to participants. Second thing is each participant attends a Together We Dine event, a table discussion about race that one can attend in person or virtually. Third, we are providing everybody monthly action items. These action items are interesting and fulfilling.
“They are going to try to do several things. One is to educate ourselves about our blind spots. All of us have blind spots no matter what our color is. I don’t know how it is to walk in the shoes of Cynthia Marshall. I have no idea, but I can listen and learn. The second is to provide introspection and education as to our implicit bias. We all have implicit bias no matter what color we are. Also, we want to educate our nation’s history about race and racism. There are so many instances that people don’t know about. We all need to have an appreciation for the history that caused our country to be in this condition today. Lastly, our monthly action that we will send. One month it might be education, another month take a positive outward action in your community to fight racism. Provide links to local representatives in eradicating racism.”
Keith explained that he joined the program out of a sense of responsibility.
“I think we are in such a critical and crucial time right now, and I wanted to do my part in something that is positive and lasting to help our country move forward,” Keith said. “I know the problems that we are facing right now the social issues, the pandemic is huge and feels overwhelming. I know it is easy to feel despair but there is always hope if we choose to look for it.
“And if we choose to make it. We should choose hope and one of the most meaningful actions we can take right now is changing someone’s mind by changing their heart. And that usually comes from intentional action, meaningful interaction, conversations that connect us and our humanity and think that what this program has a real chance to do. Because I think America feels right now it is in one big toxic marriage. There is a long division of crookedness that runs right to the middle of our new house. For this to survive we have to find some way to bridge that large and widening gap. The question I have for myself is what can I do to help bridge it. That’s where a program like this comes in and why I am excited to be a part of it. We want people to change not because they have been forced to but because they want to and when we start to see each other as one of our own we fight for each other and not against each other.”
The Mavs have become involved with the program because it falls in line with one of its own initiative.
“It is so good to be here and I am delighted that the Mavs are a part of this,” Marshall said. “As many of you know we hosted a courageous conversation on June 9 and our theme was listen, learn and unite. We said we needed to unite against an action plan. We needed to do something. The Mavs are so excited to be a part of this. This aligns so much with what we are about, which is action.
“We launched our own initiative as a result of everything that is going on and is called MAVS Take Action. Part of our 25 part initiative is partnering with Pastor Butler with Project Unity and stepping up in a big way. It is a minimum of a $5 million initiative, part of the 25 part initiative that we have with 10,000 volunteer hours over a three year period. Yes it is a movement but it is also a moment. This is our moment to do something.”
Butler said the goal of the program is to help people understand where each one comes from to better educate people about differences.
“What we are trying to do is help people walk in others’ shoes,” Butler said. “Last thing we challenge people to do is engage in active conversation that improves race relations. And I will close by saying, silence is not a form of engagement and that’s why Together We Can exists.”
To get involved, visit https://www.togetherwecan.one.