Bishop James P. Foster Jr. receives the Kelsy Beshears Racial Justice Award during the YWCA Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism on Friday.

The YWCA held its 24th annual Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism event Friday morning to talk about racial injustice, which isn’t easy to do.

“It is a tough subject, and no one’s really proud of it,” said Sara Parks, the co-liaison of the Lloyd Warner Coalition. “Obviously, we don’t like to bring up stuff that we’re wrong about or that has that negative connotation to our community.”

The Lloyd Warner Coalition and Bishop James P. Foster Jr. received the Kelsy Beshears Racial Justice Award for their work in bringing awareness to racism and doing their part to try and eliminate it from the community.

The Lloyd Warner Coalition is a group of about 17 organizations that raises awareness of racial terror, specifically the lynching of Lloyd Warner in 1933.

“We want to make sure that we know where we stand, where we’re coming from as a community, how we let this happen, how we can not let it happen again and how we move forward together,” Parks said.

Foster established an “all nations” church in 1975 to try and tear down racial divides by hosting pastors of all races. His daughter-in-law, Roberta Foster, gave the keynote address for the event Friday.

“(Racism) invokes trauma,” Roberta Foster said. “It affects our mind, it affects our mental health, it affects our bodies when we react. It affects so many different aspects of who we are — heart, mind, body, soul. So it’s difficult to discuss it because it triggers those emotional responses.”

She talked about how faith is a way to respond to racism and the emotions it evokes.

“(Faith) invokes healing, and in order to move forward, which is something that we have no choice but to move forward, faith is a great approach,” Roberta Foster said.

James Foster has a master’s degree in music, and it’s clear how integral that is in the Foster family, as they opened the event by singing “How Great is Our God.”

“Music is a universal language,” Roberta Foster said. “It’s something that brings us together, it creates unity, harmony, humanity. Music is a wonderful tool to use to bring healing to any aspect of a social issue, like racism.”

Kelsy Beshears, the namesake of the award, was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement in St. Joseph. Although racial justice has come a long way since the 1960s, Roberta Foster said there still is a lot of work left to do, and it starts by talking.

“Don’t be afraid to have a conversation,” she said. “It’s hard, and no one wants to feel vulnerable, but at the same time, we have to come together. Before we can even change a structure of any sort or any type of system, we have to do the people work.

“We have to break down the walls and sometimes just meet, have a cup of coffee, have a conversation,” Roberta Foster said. “Just be there for one another.”

Quinn Ritzdorf can be reached at quinn.ritzdorf@newspressnow.com

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