A “Coming Together for Racial Understanding” on-the-job training event was recently held at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale.
Seventeen participants from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and the University of Arkansas School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Humanities at Pine Bluff learned ways to facilitate the community dialogue on race.
Teki Hunt, director of the 4-H Youth Development Program for UAPB, is one of the members of the Arkansas program training team. She said the event served to train the second cohort of the UA System program. The program trains extension professionals to help communities engage in civil dialogues on racial issues.
“The curricula seek to break down institutional racism, individual prejudices and stereotypes,” she said. “Participants learn strategies for planning dialogues for racial healing in our communities.”
In addition to Hunt, the Arkansas training team includes Blanca Hernandez, Pulaski County Extension Officer for Family and Consumer Sciences; Julianne Dunn, economic development trainer; and Emily Smith, program associate for community and economic development for the Cooperative Extension Service, which is part of the Agriculture Division of the UA System.
During the training event, the team used the “Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation” program from Everyday Democracy, a national organization that helps communities find ways for people of different backgrounds to think, to talk and work together to solve problems. Participants received an overview of the goal and were guided through six discussion sessions.
The exercises helped participants examine the gaps between racial and ethnic groups and think about ways to create institutional and political change.
They were able to share their personal experiences and began to discuss community concerns and potential ways to resolve issues. At the end of the training, they developed concrete steps to move forward and involve community members in the conversation.
Hunt and Hernandez were trained as part of a national cohort of extension professionals from 40 states in 2018, and they helped form Arkansas’ first cohort in 2019. They continue to meet monthly with the groups. National Coming Together for Racial Understanding training courses and will meet quarterly with the two Arkansas cohorts.
“These meetings will allow us to continue our dialogues towards racial healing, to provide support and to share resources,” said Hunt. “We aim to foster community dialogues within the extension community, our universities, and among our stakeholders and clients. “
Hunt is also a member of the 4-H Access, Equity and Belonging for All Committee, which is made up of champion groups that provide outreach services to vulnerable youth populations across the country. She is the co-chair of the Champion Group for Youth Incarcerated and is also a member of the Champion Group for African American Youth.
“This committee has created fact sheets and is working on best practices for working with diverse populations across 4-H to help achieve our national strategic plan’s goal of serving a representative population of our entire nation and serving 10 million young people by the year 2025, ”she said.
UAPB attendees included Nina Lyon Bennett, Associate Dean for Academics; Rachel Luckett, director of urban animation; and Yong Park, associate professor of entomology.
The committee’s resources can be found online at https://access-equity-belonging.extension.org/.
Will Hehemann is a writer / editor at the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Humanities at UAPB.
UAPB participants in the Coming Together for Racial Understanding session include (left to right) Nina Lyon Bennett, Associate Dean for Academics; Rachel Luckett, director of urban animation; Yong Park, associate professor of entomology; and Teki Hunt, director of the 4-H youth development program and conference trainer. (Special for The Commercial / Julianne Dunn, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.)