WILMETTE – Dynamic speaker and educator Dr. Joy DeGruy does not confess to have all the answers to solve the violence that plagues some communities across the country, but she does believe that we can rebuild sustainable communities through engagement and relationships.
Dr. DeGruy will speak at the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette on October 5, addressing the roots of racism and offering suggestions on healing and justice. She has spent her career focused on issues of social justice, having earned two masters degrees in social work and clinical psychology, as well as a Ph.D in social work research.
Motivated by her belief in the oneness of humankind, Dr. DeGruy believes that we are at a crossroads as a human race and need to determine how we are going to move forward. “I have a fundamental belief in the oneness of mankind,” Dr. DeGruy told DailyNorthShore. “What is difficult has been in how to facilitate that into reality,” she said.
She has a strong sense that everyone — even those who don’t agree with each other— can work together to make positive changes. “We don’t all have to agree but let’s all stay in the room,” she said. This idea of “staying in the room” is integral to Dr. DeGruy’s philosophy that people engage with one another to build community.
When Dr. DeGruy was a child growing up in Los Angeles, she felt a strong sense of connection and community. Her father used to tell her “bad news will beat you home Joy,” because everyone in the neighborhood watched out for one another.
She believes it is important to look at the violence, gangs and other social problems of today in the context of history. What started with slavery and Jim Crow, and evolved into red-lining, urban renewal and gentrification, eroded African American communities and laid the framework for the violence we read about everyday. Dr. DeGruy compares communities to gardens — plants constantly uprooted do not thrive.
But she also believes that we can rebuild sustainable communities through the process of making connections with one another. And she believes that everyone should take initiative. “Do your part because you are part of the village,” she said. While it is not an easy fix, she believes that we are capable of making positive changes if we each find our role and the will to do it.
Over time, Dr. DeGruy has found herself simplifying her own life. Instead of searching for happiness in material things, she finds joy in relationships with others. And she feels all humans have been taught basic principals of human decency. “The question is how do (you) love people who are different from you?” she asked.
While these are difficult but extremely important issues she is tackling, Dr. DeGruy remains optimistic in her message. “There is nothing we can’t overcome,” she said.
The presentation is free and open to the public and will be on October 5 at the Baha’i House of Worship, Foundation Hall (lower level), 100 Linden Avenue, Wilmette. Light refreshments will be served at 6 p.m. The presentation begins at 7 p.m.