Brave Talks

When the topic of racism arises, many people automatically think about interpersonal racism or how individual people of different races interact with each other. While important, interpersonal racism is an incomplete picture. Structural racism is racism that is embedded in organizational and institutional law, policies, practices, and customs or norms. It is built into processes and frameworks of the social, economic, political, and cultural institutions of our society. Structural racism can be thought of as a consistent phenomenon that produces disadvantaged outcomes for people of color. Having an understanding of structural racism is critical in order to recognize the impact of racism on health. Brave Talks provides opportunities for people to develop and deepen their understanding of structural racism.

What is Brave Talks?

Brave Talks is an informal, facilitated gathering of a small group of community members, where conversations about the impact of structural racism on communities of color take place. It is an opportunity to share thoughts and impressions, bravely ask questions, be exposed to new ideas, unlearn, and learn from and teach one another. Brave Talks is also a chance to advance the vision of Community Grand Rounds, which is to create a thriving community where optimal health is achievable by all. Brave Talks includes six sessions:

1. Building awareness
2. Connecting to health
3. Foundational history 
4. Structural lens
5. Action 
6. Continued growth

Each session lasts for two hours and is free of cost. Please note that we are willing to work with or cater to your group’s availability. Learn about the six-session format and more about Brave Talks from our Orientation Guide 2022

Why get involved?

We must correctly identify and understand the problems we face in order to find appropriate and lasting solutions. By understanding the structural nature of racism and its impact on health, you will be taking an important step towards helping our community make lasting improvements to the systems that impact healthcare, housing, education, and more. These systems often present barriers that limit access of people and communities of color to important resources and opportunities needed for health and wellbeing. Brave Talks can develop or strength your ability to apply a structural lens to policies, systems, and events, which will increase our chances of improving these structures.


How to enroll in Brave Talks?

You can join Brave Talks by completing one of the two forms linked below, depending on whether you wish to be placed in a Brave Talk group or if you would like to invite (host) people you may already know to form a group.

Click here to become a participant
Participants must commit to attending and fully participating in all six sessions to be held weekly. Everyone will be asked to bring their authentic self, engage, be open to new ideas, and curiosity of awareness. Participants will be placed into groups based on how schedules align. Groups will be limited to 8-10 participants. You will be contacted within a week with more information about potential dates and times of your Brave Talk. 

Click here to become a host
A host is a person who has volunteered to gather a group of people for a Brave Talk. Often times, this person will also offer their home or another space to hold the Brave Talk sessions. Hosts are primarily responsible for helping to create a warm and welcoming environment and work with the facilitators to ensure that participants know times and locations of the sessions. 

Meet our Facilitators 

Our Brave Talks facilitators are members of our community who are driven to build equity here in Southwest Michigan. They have been trained to facilitate these conversations and serve as a guide to help others develop and strengthen their structural lens. 

Leslie PickellLeslie Pickell

Leslie was director, global leadership development, North America, at Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, which is now GE Healthcare. Since 2000, she has been a facilitator and consulting team member at Levinson and Co. and the Levinson Institute. She co-founded and owned The Livery, Inc. in Benton Harbor, and has served as a board member of Cornerstone Alliance, the New Territory Arts Association, and continues to serve as a committee member of the Gene Harris Coming Home Coming Together Concert. Leslie also enjoys volunteering at Hospice.

Ashlee OffordAshlee Offord

Ashlee is a clinical education specialist in the population health department at Spectrum Health Lakeland. A graduate from Western Michigan University’s College of Education, her work is focused on impacting youth and those that serve youth within our county to promote optimal health, well-being, and learning.  


Courtney Davis

Courtney Davis

Courtney has a passion in building community, specifically in aligning health and race equity in public health practice and actions. Her work takes intentionality and ongoing learning, unlearning, and relearning. She enjoys participating in Brave Talks, which has deepened her personal journey and continues to keep her challenged and connected to community and is honored to be a part of its ongoing imprint in our community.

Jerry Price

Jerry Price

Jerry is a specialist for the talent program and lead for Spectrum Health’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). He is responsible for leading DEI strategic planning within Spectrum Health and supports as a DEI consultant for 14 other regional Spectrum Health locations. Jerry is a certified leadership development training professional for Vital Smarts, a certified Unconscious Bias facilitator for the Cultural Intelligence Center, and former national trainer for the YMCA of the USA.  

Gillian Conrad

Gillian Conrad

Through her work in public health, Gillian strives to improve health outcomes in her community, specifically addressing the impacts that structural racism has on health. She has a passion for public health storytelling and connecting with community members on health equity and social justice initiatives.

Melinda Gruber

Melinda Gruber 

Melinda is a cancer survivor and advocate for person-centered, family-oriented care. She and her husband have six children and live in South Haven. Melinda holds a PhD and was a 2018-19 Health and Aging Policy Fellow. She currently is the Vice President of Continuing Care at Spectrum Health Lakeland, president of Caring Circle, and interim president of Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation. Melinda loves to be involved in her community and is on several boards and service groups.

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