Promoting Racial Equity

Compressed HandsHeartGraphicAddressing equity is paramount to establishing a children's mental health system of care that meets the needs of all youth and their families. Project SUN is undertaking an initiative to understand our different experiences and promote action towards equity and access to children's mental health services in Kankakee County. Project SUN strives to take into account different languages, cultures, races, genders, and economic situations, as well as different needs in the urban, rural, and suburban areas of the county.

Racial Equity Assessment Community Survey
A first step is to conduct a survey of Kankakee County residents about experiences with racial discrimination, as well as gather other information to help guide future actions to promote racial healing. Racial inequalities and disparities have been well documented. For key facts and figures, click here. Visit our Cultural Competency Resources page for additional information.





More About Project SUN's Racial Equity Initiative

“The existence of systemic racism and disparities in access to mental, emotional, and behavioral healthcare keep many youth of color from flourishing. Therefore, Project SUN is sponsoring a racial equity initiative to create stepping-stones towards racial healing and the elimination of systemic racism,” according to Dr. Debra Baron, director of Project SUN. She added, “Addressing equity is paramount to establishing a children’s mental health system of care that meets the needs of all youth and their families.”

According to Dr. Cynthia Taylor, director of Multiethnic Student Services at Olivet Nazarene University and Chair of the Project SUN Cultural Competency Workgroup, "To love God, we must love humanity. To love humanity, we must address the conditions in which we live and operate." The Cultural Competency Workgroup is leading the initiative.

This phase of a multi-tiered undertaking focuses on understanding the different experiences Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and White/Caucasian members of the community have had regarding racial discrimination. Future undertakings will address the needs of other marginalized groups.

This program is intended to create shared language, knowledge, and experiences related to systemic racism through the lens of three affinity groups: Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and White/Caucasian. Participants will have the opportunity to build a shared understanding of what the terms racial construction, racial identity development, diversity, equity, and inclusion mean. There will also be an opportunity for individuals of similar racial/ethnic backgrounds to share their lived experiences in a safe environment.

Participants will identify the different spaces where implicit racism lives and how we can recognize it in order to dismantle it. They will also learn about challenges and tools to amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized, as well as how to promote healing. The program will end with a sendoff encouraging participants to engage in individual, group, and community actions that can lead to racial healing and equity.

Rev. Robert Bushey, Jr. a native of Kankakee County, trained racial healing ambassador and longtime racial equity advocate, serves as the lead consultant for the initiative. “Our community has long known the pain of racial inequity and has struggled to have the courageous conversations needed to promote understanding and healing. My Piece in the Puzzle is the first step toward building pathways to peace with our own racial identity and between people of different racial identities. My hope is that for those who participate, this will be a beginning in what is a long and hope-filled journey toward reconciliation and peace,” he stated.

The next component of this undertaking is to train additional racial healing ambassadors who will facilitate discussions throughout the county based on the My Piece in the Puzzle model.

The initial component of this initiative began this summer with collecting data through a racial equity assessment survey. Kankakee County residents will continue to have the opportunity to complete this survey until mid-November by going to the Project SUN website. The survey is available in English and Spanish.

A fourth component, expected to take place next spring, will involve hosting roundtable discussions with community leaders to identify opportunities and challenges to eliminating systemic racism. These conversations are intended to identify specific actions that can be taken to eliminate practices that contribute to systemic racism and that will end disparities not only in access to mental and physical health services, but also in education, employment, financial services, housing, and law enforcement.

Interested in helping to plan Project SUN's upcoming racial equity activities? Please email us at