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Equity Matters

Two nonprofits lead the way with new programs to advance equity

Sergeant Sheldon Smith of the Dallas Police Department with Charlene Edwards of Project Unity

North Star Values: Equity and Education

Advancing community equity is key to building thriving communities for all. Two equity focused organizations and their new programs we’ve recently invested in are creating big impact for community members of color.

Project Unity’s Together We Learn

Project Unity is working to heal community-police relationships, one humanizing experience at a time. Its Together We Learn program provides an opportunity for North Texas youth to dialogue with and learn from Dallas law enforcement to strengthen the bond between police officers and the community, serving as a mutual learning opportunity for teens and officers.

Together We Learn was created in partnership with the National Black Police Association and Sergeant Sheldon Smith of the Dallas Police Department, following several incidents involving officers around the country in 2016, including the tragic events of July 7 in Dallas. Project Unity received $475,000 from CFT’s W. W. Caruth, Jr. Fund to help implement the program in schools over the next three years.

“This grant has allowed us to build our staff and resources. We’re now prepared to go into more schools to implement this program that we believe will save lives. Barriers are broken down when we humanize the officers with the students and vice versa,” said Charlene Edwards, director of programs and events at Project Unity.

During the workshops, police officers give classroom instruction and demonstrate to students how to interact and react with law enforcement during a traffic stop, including addressing students’ questions and concerns. Students then break into groups and complete full traffic stop mock simulations in cars with officers. Officers also receive similar training focused on how they should best respond to teens during these situations. By including moments in the trainings when the police officer plays the role of the student and vice versa, this program seeks to shift attitudes on both sides, helping students and officers practice keeping the interaction safe and routine.

“It’s all about creating relationships and empathy for one another,” said Pastor Richie Butler, Project Unity founder and chief visionary officer. “Everyone wants to go home safely, so we’re working to engage each other to make sure that's a reality.”

Project Unity has delivered the program in the community and plans to bring Together We Learn to Dallas ISDDeSoto ISDGarland ISD, and other districts in 2022 and beyond.

Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation’s Racial Equity NOW cohorts for nonprofits

Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (Dallas TRHT) is working to address inequities and disparities within the nonprofit sector through Racial Equity NOW, a first-of-its-kind deep learning experience for North Texas nonprofits looking to improve their internal and external racial equity policies and practices and make transformational change in our community.

Many local nonprofit organizations lack resources and funding for racial equity training for staff and board members. Not having equity-centered policies and practices in place can contribute to racial disparities that communities face daily and which nonprofits are working to alleviate.

Dallas TRHT received $305,000 from CFT’s W. W. Caruth, Jr. Fund to help implement the Racial Equity NOW program, which provides a cohort of 14–16 nonprofits annually with free racial equity training, one-on-one coaching, case study presentations, policy review and outcomes development, and a community-based history tour. The inaugural cohort was held in 2019–2020, and more than 30 organizations have participated to date. A third cohort will kick off in February 2022.

This story was originally featured in our 2021 annual report. For additional details and content, click here.

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