New social justice action toolkit developed by KU researchers

Published: Aug. 1, 2020 at 6:18 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - University of Kansas researchers are developing a new toolkit for social justice action.

The University of Kansas says when protests erupted over the death of George Floyd and systematic racism in the U.S., entrepreneur David Dennis was reminded of the stories his grandmother told him of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Dennis said he hadn’t imagined that civil unrest would affect yet another generation.

“I saw the pain of people,” he said. “I saw them tearing up their communities because of the knees on our necks for years. I said, there has to be a better way to show frustration. So, I scoured the internet to find a way to do it.”

Dennis, founder of International Food Group in Little Rock, Arkansas, says through his search he discovered the Community Tool Box, which is a global resource developed at the University of Kansas Center for Community Health and Development.

Christina Holt, assistant director of the center, says at the same time she and another staff were exploring the creation of a specific list of resources to help people create social change as part of the Community Tool Box.

“When David reached out to us about resources for social justice, it was perfect timing,” she said. “It lit a fire under us to create this resource and to do it well.”

Dennis says the Justice Action Toolkit brings together many resources of the toolbox website into a set of actions that can be sued to create social change. He says it takes visitors step by step through registering voters, reaching out and developing relationships with elected officials, organizing demonstrations and advocacy, among many other actions.

“The tragic death of George Floyd and the structural inequities laid bare by COVID-19 have galvanized people in communities across the country to action,” Holt said. “The Community Tool Box exists to provide tools for change and improvement, and after decades engaging in this work, our team has a moral obligation to make these accessible for our current context. In this spirit, we have lifted up resources providing education, strategies for engaging in direct action, and effective forms of advocacy. It is our hope that these resources will bolster communities’ transformative efforts for racial justice.”

Dennis says for his part, he has been working to promote and find resources to support the project. He says working though his connections in business, churches, foundations and governments he hopes to raise investment int he toolbox and distribute its resources more widely.

“I’ve had my own challenges with systemic racism in banking, or business, or different places, and when I came up against those situations, I started to respond in a negative way,” Dennis said. “But you need a system or resources that help you address it. With this, you have a platform and the tools to learn how to petition, how to make sure people are getting out the vote, how to help and how to measure your results.”

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