CEO and president of the Kellogg Foundation, La June Montgomery Tabron, joined other global leaders and activists for a global digital experience on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD), March 21, 2023.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been observed globally on March 21 since 1966, as proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The date was chosen to commemorate the police killing of 69 people at peaceful demonstrations against apartheid in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960. The day is intended to inspire and empower communities and countries around the world to maintain focus on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.
The 2023 digital broadcast, produced in association with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was designed to raise awareness of the IDERD, host conversations grounded in a vision of a more diverse and inclusive world, identify actionable steps individuals and organizations can take to engage with anti-racism, and reinforce a link between the commemoration on March 21 and the paired celebration of Peace Day on September 21. In addition to Tabron, this year’s broadcast included Dr. Bernice A. King of the MLK Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change, cofounder of Project Zero Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO Gabriela Ramos, and many others.
Peace Day is the result of over twenty years of work by Jeremy Gilley. Gilley began his career as a British actor and filmmaker, and in 1999 began documenting his personal work to create an annual Peace Day. His organization, Peace One Day, was able to move the member states of the United Nations to unanimously adopt an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence, the International Day of Peace, on September 21. A major success of Peace Day occurred in 2007, when Peace One Day’s collaboration with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies resulted in a ceasefire observed by all parties including the Taliban. As a direct result of Peace Day agreements, 4.5 million Afghan children were able to be vaccinated against polio.
During her powerful interview with Gilley, La June Montgomery Tabron spoke to the world’s need for racial equity rooted in racial healing. While the aspirations of Peace Day are global, both Gilley and Tabron recognize and center the need for local transformation and action. “Our work is about humanity, and so is the work of this day,” noted Tabron. “The work and the progress happens on the ground from community to community.”
To Tabron, the connection between W.K. Kellogg’s original charge to the foundation – to promote the “health, happiness, and well-being of children” – and anti-racist work is obvious. “It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like the pursuit of a dream that should no longer be a dream – children thriving should be what this country and this world was made to do, so my work is delivering on that promise for young people, to make sure that we’re giving them and providing for them opportunities to thrive.”
Tabron’s nine-year tenure as CEO of the Kellogg Foundation has been marked by a surge in national and international attention to racism and its effects. She noted, “Even though there is a national and global narrative that we are divided, what we are seeing is that there is a growing number of people actually wanting us to come together. … Racism isn’t a given, it’s an action and a practice that can be changed.”
As the interview drew to a close, Gilley asked Tabron where she drew ongoing inspiration in a world full of turmoil. Smiling, Tabron answered: “Young people.
“[Young people] know in their heart that racial equity must exist for everyone. Their actions are bold. They are bold, they are creative, they are insightful, they do their research, and I just get truly inspired by that. They’re not acting from tradition, they’re acting from passion.”
Watch La June Montgomery Tabron’s full interview, along with many others, at Anti-Racism Live 2023.