ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — YWCA Northwestern is encouraging local non-profits to apply to receive a portion of $4.5 million from the State of Illinois to “facilitate racial healing” in Rockford.

Healing Illinois was created in 2020 to address racial disparities that impact Illinoisians. The grant money is to be used to “facilitate racial healing activities, lead equity work and engage in meaningful dialogue,” and “will support communities across Illinois that continue to grapple with complex and long-standing issues–from institutional racism to freedom of speech and expression.”

Non-profit groups from across the state have been encouraged to apply for up to $30,000 a piece in funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services’ “Healing Illinois” racial healing initiative, which will fund projects that advance racial equity through strategies that involve building deeper interpersonal interactions through racial healing circles, peace circles, restorative justice practices, etc.; creative artistic activities, including community-wide murals, visual artistic events, exhibitions, storytelling and discussion that advance racial healing; amplify truth narratives of communities most impact by systemic racism; storytelling programs to build understanding and empathy; and engaging in projects that build and/or enhance knowledge and understanding of racial justice, among others.

“We want to make sure Chicagoans can relate to people in Rockford, that can relate to people in northwest Illinois, just as much they can relate to the southernmost part of the state, because it’s different, vastly different,” said Healing Illinois program manager Maritza Bandera. “We want to make sure we see each other, that we understand each other, that we see the humanity in each other and that is one of the main objectives and goals of Healing Illinois, over time.”

The deadline for non-profits to apply for Healing Illinois money is December 1st.