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March 10, 2022

SIU alumnus will discuss ‘Truth and Transformation’ at Lesar Lecture

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Jerry L. Hawkins, executive director of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (Dallas TRHT) and a Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumnus, will share his thoughts on how the nation can become more inclusive and equitable at the SIU School of Law next week.

Hawkins’ presentation, “Truth and Transformation in Southern Illinois, South Africa, Chicago, and Dallas. Narrative Change Work as a Foundation for the Future,” is the law school’s 2022 Hiram H. Lesar Distinguished Lecture. The free, public presentation is at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, in the law school auditorium. This is the 24th lecture in the series established to honor founding Dean Hiram H. Lesar.

SIU School of Law Dean Camille Davidson said Hawkins’ talk fits well with SIU’s priorities and the public good.

“Mr. Hawkins will help us understand how the past informs the present, and he will provide us with the tools to build relationships and equitable practices,” she said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion form a featured pillar in the university’s Imagine 2030 strategic plan.  I hope those who attend the lecture will understand the power that each of us has to make change.”

During the lecture, Hawkins will share the work of his team at Dallas TRHT, which is part of a national, 14-community initiative by The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the organization’s origins, and his personal journey as an SIU student and alumnus.

“SIU Carbondale has played an important, yet under-told role in the history of this country,” he said. “I plan to share how that role has touched my family and friends, helped students like me find community and purpose, and changed our country for the better.”

Hawkins said Dallas TRHT was launched in 2016 as a way to co-develop a process where communities and the country “could begin to focus energy, resources and discourse on uprooting and eliminating the false ideology of a hierarchy of human value, so that all of us could begin to effectively transform the places we live, learn, work and play.”

Dallas TRHT envisions a community where there are no north-south divisions in terms of race, wealth, arts, culture, health, safety, education and opportunity, and where communities “actively, honestly and openly acknowledge, repair and heal from past and present racial inequities,” said Hawkins, who became Dallas TRHT founding executive director in 2018.

Hawkins was a double major at SIU Carbondale, completing his early childhood education coursework in 2001 before leaving to study abroad in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. He completed his child and family services practicum in 2007 and earned his degree. His mother, Julia, is also a Saluki alumna. Hawkins also earned a master’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University in 2008.