Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation hosting series of discussions on race in WV

By Joe Severino Staff writer Jul 31, 2020

Original Article: Charleston Gazette-Mail

The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation will host the first of five high-profile events on race in West Virginia on Thursday.

The 2020 Summit on Race Matters in West Virginia is a five-part virtual event, beginning next week and stretching into December. The series will focus on a number of issues and disparities that Black West Virginians face.

Ibram X. Kendi, author of The New York Times bestseller “How to be an Antiracist,” will be the keynote speaker for the first event, which will begin at 4 p.m. via Zoom call. Activist Shaun King, Charleston attorney Kitty Dooley and author Jeff James will be panelists for the discussion.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, who spearheaded The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which looks at the legacy of slavery 400 years after the first African slaves were brought to the United States, will be the keynote speaker for the Sept. 10 event, said Michelle Foster, the foundation’s CEO.

A new cast of panelists will participate in each of the five events.

The idea for the event followed the death of George Floyd, Foster said. In 2014, the foundation held a similar event on race, which became the model for this year’s summit.

The first session will be about understanding racism in society, Foster said. The four subsequent dates will address criminal justice, health, voter engagement, education, employment, wealth, housing and more.

Foster said, when the foundation planned the summit, they didn’t want it to be just small talk.

“We are laser focused on a conversation that leads to change,” she said. “I just didn’t want to have another conversation. I really wanted for their to be measurable outcomes.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black Americans and has shown the country the health and wealth disparities Black Americans face, Foster said. Now, policy changes that address those disparities and other social determinants of health need to follow the conversation.

“We’re going to look at those major systems, look at disparities and potential solutions, and how can we all work together so that the barriers people of color face can be removed,” Foster said. “Then we can all be a part of moving West Virginia forward.

“For us to all participate in that — people of color — these barriers that we’re faced with have to be addressed.”

Foster said the foundation wanted an event that brought the community together to discuss a serious issue.

“It’s really showing that we are responsive to the needs of our community,” she said, “and as a community foundation that’s what we should always be about.”

The Aug. 6 event is limited to 1,000 participants. To register, visit the foundation’s website at

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