As part of our Special Report on Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Groundwater racial equity workshops, we are presenting stories of people who experienced the trainings and their responses to it. This is the third in that series.
READ THE FULL SPECIAL REPORT: Diving into the Groundwater: Exploring the depths of racism
As a young, Black woman, Aprina Johnson has felt the pain of being judged by the color of her skin for much of her life, but often couldn’t quite articulate it.
A workshop she participated in laid out for her how communities have historically been built on racial inequities and how that affects people, and suddenly it all made sense. But not in a good way.
“I cried,” she says. “I even had to step out a few different times, because the information was not only new to me, it was confirmation of things.”
Johnson is one of about 2,000 people in Greater Cincinnati who, since 2019, have participated in one of Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Racial Equity Matters, presented by bi3, Groundwater trainings.
READ MORE: 'The time is now to figure this out.' Lighthouse CEO was moved to action by equity workshops
Groundwater is a program of the Greensboro, N.C.-based Racial Equity Institute, a not-for-profit founded to help create more equitable institutions and challenge traditional assumptions about race.
Greater Cincinnati Foundation adopted the program as a key element of its Racial Equity Matters initiative. Groundwater training is often followed up with sessions called Phase I, two-day workshops with fewer people and more interaction, presenting a historical, cultural, and structural analysis of racism and implicit bias.
READ MORE: Racial Equity Matters: GCF's workshops offer eye-opening lessons
Johnson learned about Groundwater while working at a former employer, and she encouraged her co-workers to participate too.
“I was also the only person of color working there at that time,” she says. “I really wanted to project what I was seeing and feeling to my co-workers. It felt like I couldn’t do that alone.”
Aprina JohnsonA native of Newport and a musician, she has been active in communities in Cincinnati through her music, dance instruction, and creative placemaking with neighborhood organizations. She felt the in-depth training would help her in her work.
“I thought I definitely needed to be there,” she says. “I’m a student for life, and always open to learning something new so that when I’m out in the community, I can communicate things as clearly and concisely as I possibly can.”
The experience helped her frame and communicate things she had been seeing and feeling for a long time, she says.
“It confirmed a lot of feelings I was feeling, and it confirmed a lot of analyzing I was doing in my mind, wondering ‘are my conclusions correct?’” she says.
“It was a humongous breakthrough to have an organization come down and break it down,” she says. “I was trying to articulate it at work and to other people, and I was struggling because I felt like people didn’t understand what I was trying to say. Hearing other people say what I had been saying was, absolutely, validation.”
The workshop confirmed and energized her efforts to act and speak out against structural racism.
“It’s important for us to say, ‘It’s not working out,’” she says. “It may have been working for this business for hundreds of years, but we have to recognize other voices and other systems now.”
She recommends that individuals and businesses sign up for the trainings, which will be offered virtually this year at dates to be determined. “It’s critically important that people get exposed to this,” she says. “The injustice is causing people to wake up, but there is still so much more to learn.”
This Special Report on Racial Equity Matters presented by bi3 has been made possible with support from Greater Cincinnati Foundation.