"When I moved to Oshkosh from Chicago in August of 2011, I struggled to acclimate to the community. Not only was it rare to see people who looked like me, but I experienced a number of racial macro aggressions—unfounded traffic stops (no citations or tickets), people asking me if I had, “moved here because of the prison”, local business owners making blatant racists remarks to me and my daughter. What should have been a new start was looking like a bad decision.
I met a woman at church, Janine Wright, who seemed to understand my challenges. Janine, is a white woman raised in Wisconsin who had married a Black man from Chicago. Together, they raised four biracial children in Oshkosh. During their close to 30-years of residency, her husband and children had similar experiences.
Janine and I began to meet regularly to talk. We had some hard-hitting conversations about race and racial oppression.
When we would return to our respective workplaces and places of influence, to share what we had learned during our informal chats, people seemed very interested. Often, they would say, “You two talked about THAT?” or “I would really like to be a part of a conversation like that.”
It didn’t take long for Janine and I to realize that we could turn these private chats into teachable moments. We started hosting community conversations (now known as Color-Brave Community Conversations) at houses of faith throughout Oshkosh.
Each month, we would show a video clip and have a facilitated conversation about it. The events took off and were very well attended from the start. People wanted to change the narrative around race. They wanted tools to help make the community better.
During our third year of the community conversations, I was approached by Dr. Jennifer Chandler. Jennifer was a regular attendee, and she asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. Jennifer asked, “What’s next?”
I didn’t understand the question. I asked her, what she meant. She said, “You have been having these conversations for the past three years and they are great. At this point, you are preaching to the choir. How do you plan to reach the people who need to be a part of these conversations, but who are not showing up?”
I had to admit to Jennifer that I hadn’t thought about that, and had no idea how to make that happen.
In July of 2014, Jennifer and I sat down at my dining room table and began the process of creating Fit Oshkosh, getting it designated as a nonprofit and creating the curriculum that we would begin to deliver.
On that day, Fit Oshkosh was born with Jennifer as Fit’s co-founder and Janine as our first Board member."
The rest is history in the making."
Tracey Robertson, Executive Director and Co-founder