Mayor Fischer urging residents to participate in virtual discussion on race-based stress and trauma

August 11, 2020

Mayor Greg Fischer has announced a virtual town hall discussion this week about race-based stress and trauma that will be co-led by Dr. Steven Kniffley, associate director of Center for Behavioral Health at Spalding University, and Beatriz Vides, co-founder and senior director of the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities.

The Mayor and Louisville Metro Government’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods is sponsoring the Facebook live-stream event from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, in partnership with Spalding University, the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities, University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work and Seven Counties. The discussion will provide a space for participants to develop an understanding and an awareness of the impact race-based stress and trauma can have on a person.

“In meetings with protesters, my team and I have heard incredible, heartbreaking and inspiring stories of the impact of race-based trauma and stress,” said the Mayor. “We’ve put together this virtual town hall for people to express their feelings, share their experiences and to help others learn more about the impact this is having on people – those involved in the protests and on their families, their friends and their neighbors as well.”

Race-based trauma and stress are the results of chronic experiences of racism and discrimination that contribute to a constant state of hypervigilance for racially-based slights and microaggressions. Over time, individual coping techniques are exhausted, leading to negative health outcomes caused by race-related stresses, Kniffley said.

"It is vital to provide a space for racial healing,” he said. “To begin that path to healing and understanding, we must be open in our discussions about racial trauma, and we must give people the tools to cope with race-based stress.”

Vides added that, "One of the first steps to healing racial trauma is to understand what it is and its impact on ourselves and others, like our family, friends and co-workers. I look forward to this conversation, which will provide us with an opportunity to work toward healing as a community.”

Vincent James, who oversees the city’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods as the city’s Chief of Community Building, said he believes this is an ideal time to have meaningful conversations about the profound impact that race-based trauma has in Black and Brown communities.

“Our esteemed panelists bring a wealth of knowledge that needs to be heard, and their research is invaluable,” James said. “We are excited to hear from this diverse panel of experts and showcase the innovative work they continue to do in our city. I hope this discussion will help many people begin to process of healing emotionally and physically from the trauma of systemic racism.”

The discussion is part of the Louisville Trauma Resilient Community (TRC) project, a $5 million, 5-year federal grant, funded by SAMSHA and managed by OSHN, to promote resilience and equity for Louisville families and young people most affected by trauma, systemic inequity, and violence in west and south Louisville.

The public is invited to join in Thursday’s town hall discussion at https://www.facebook.com/MayorGregFischer/