Racial Healing and Resident-Led Change

Today is the United States’ first-ever National Day of Racial Healing. It’s meaningfully situated between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration of a new president whose election campaign fanned the flames of racial intolerance. It also gives all of us at ioby a good opportunity to reflect on the work we do and the people and projects we support.

We believe that the work we support in neighborhoods across the US is deeply, intrinsically linked to healing. Many of the resident leaders with whom we work live in neighborhoods that have undergone decades of structural racism and other forms of oppression, from redlining to police violence. When residents of a neighborhood like Buckeye in Cleveland, or Orange Mound in Memphis, come together to build something positive using resources from within the community, it’s both a reclaiming of power and an act of healing.


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[High School students in the Heights neighborhood of Memphis work to brighten abandoned buildings as part of ioby project Community Bored Up]


Some ioby projects have an explicitly stated racial or social justice goal— Cleveland Action Legal and Jail Support, and the A Bridge That Bridges are a couple of recent examples. But overall, the more than 1,000 ioby projects show a great diversity: community gardens, prenatal yoga, protected bike lanes, Halloween parades, and little free libraries to name a few.

Although they seem to cover a lot of ground, a closer look at many of these projects reveals their commitment to addressing more deeply-rooted, systemic problems. UJIMA Refresh was started in response to the lack of access to fresh food in a Cleveland neighborhood, a direct result of decades of racist economic policy and disinvestment. The students attending Leadership Memphis Pathway to Prosperity College & Career Tours come from a county where almost half of high school grads, primarily students of color, don’t enroll in postsecondary education; their economic opportunities were systematically blocked by decades of segregation and redlining. And the list goes on.

It’s no mistake that the work of our leaders is aligned in this way; in fact, the focus on racial healing is something we as an organization are actively working to support. We have deliberately chosen to grow our presence in neighborhoods with a history of disinvestment. We believe that residents in communities like these should not have to move to live in a better neighborhood. There is already tremendous knowledge, innovation, and energy among individuals and groups who step up to lead positive change where they live. It’s our job simply to help provide the platform, training, and resources to help this work make quick, visible impacts. We believe that by partnering with neighbors who are already doing the great work of healing, we can work together to bring about positive change on the personal, local, and national level.

Especially in today’s divisive and disorienting political climate, our differences can feel greater than the commonalities that unite us, and it takes real courage to reach out to our neighbors and build something together in the spaces we share. But we believe that rooted in this effort is a transformative act of healing, and we will continue to dedicate our work to supporting it.

Do you agree? Want to lend a hand? Here are two great ways to take action:



Other amazing ioby projects working for racial justice and healing:

Saving our Sons and Daughters (project deadline March 11!)

Students Under the Stars

Hollaback! Detroit: Taking It to the Streets

Friends of Chelsea Greenline Advocacy Group

Black Hills Unity Concerts: 2014, 2015, 2016

ATNSC Center for Healing & Creative Leadership

Bee for Justice

Flip the Table Youth Food Council

Shooting Without Bullets

Music on the Inside for Young People at Rikers Island

Youth Leaders Board