OAKLAND (KPIX 5)  Shakti Butler leads discussions about racial injustice.

Talking about race can be uncomfortable, but facilitator Linda Handy says Butler has a knack for building bridges.

“They’re thirsty to have these conversations, but they are fearful of broaching them,” Handy said. “Shakti makes it comfortable for people.”

At a recent workshop, a group of mostly high tech industry professionals was getting ready to mentor young people of color.     Before they did, Butler held a training session for volunteers like Michael Greenhouse to become aware of bias they may not know they have.

“They way I see the world is clearly not the way everybody else sees the world,” Greenhouse told KPIX 5.

Butler is founder and president of World Trust Educational Services, an Oakland-based nonprofit that addresses racial injustice.

“We want to connect our minds and hearts in ways in which we get actually beneath the surface of what we’re programmed to think about each other,” Butler explained.

Along with facilitators like Handy, Butler invited participants to think differently.

Butler teaches 10,000 people a year through events like this, but she reaches an even greater audience through her film, “Cracking the Codes.”  The film examines cross-cultural concerns, like why people aren’t always treated equally and why some feel trapped.

Butler says more than 1500 organizations use “Cracking the Codes” each year to promote racial understanding from universities to non-profits.

“Then there’s the potential that we’ll vote differently, that we’ll pay attention to people we normally wouldn’t pay attention to, we’ll broaden our humanity,” she said.

So for building bridges among people of all races, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Shakti Butler.

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