"As societies build walls of separation between communities,
ICAAD works to remove each brick to illuminate our common humanity"

Addressing Racism in VR + Donor Spotlight

Dear friend of ICAAD,
This season, we are grateful that ICAAD has grown to be a vibrant community of people who are committed to the promotion of human rights, peace, and equality. We are excited to spotlight three of our tenacious supporters, Gail & Allen Dougherty and Laura Toyofuku-Aki.
Additionally, we will share news about Columbia University Professor and ICAAD Board Member Courtney D. Cogburn’s TEDTalk on Experiencing Racism in Virtual Reality. 
We met Gail and Allen through their son and ICAAD founding board member, Sean. They are an inspiring couple who’ve engaged in charitable and community causes for years. We asked Gail to share her thoughts and she said, “I support ICAAD because I believe in what they do. It is that simple. Their mission; supporting equality, human rights, human dignity, it’s what I believe. If only we could all focus on such important goals.”

Laura began volunteering with ICAAD in 2015, later becoming an Advisor, and then joining the Board. The drive for change she brings to our efforts is always energizing. We asked Laura to share why she chooses to work with ICAAD:

“In this world where there is so much tragedy and heartache, I believe in our humanity and people’s innate desire to help each other.

ICAAD gives me the ability, from the chaos of my own busy life, to help communities across the world, to lift each other up across borders and oceans. What makes ICAAD’s system unique is the focus on helping local communities to improve the infrastructure they belong to and live in. ICAAD works at the intersection of data analysis and systemic discrimination to assist local organizations in driving impact. This combination is the reason why the work is priceless and why I continue to support ICAAD.”

We sincerely appreciate you, Gail, Allen, and Laura. Because of you ICAAD is able to continue it’s work promoting human rights and combating violence against women, girls, and vulnerable communities.

Addressing Racism in Virtual Reality

Psychologist and ICAAD Board Member Courtney D. Cogburn focuses her work on how racism contributes to racial inequalities in health. With a team of researchers at Columbia and Stanford University, she is using virtual reality to help people experience the complexities of racism to not only encourage them to empathize, but to more importantly motivate them to think and act differently. Her talk discusses using virtual reality as a tool for creating empathy to heal social divides. Her talk is well worth watching!


This Civil Rights and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’d like to challenge you to reflect on how fear may have influenced your opinions, especially of others, and to take a step towards the courage to overcome those fears. Why the focus on fear you might ask?

Famed marketer and author Simon Sinek in his book “Start with Why” outlines six typical manipulations used in sales and marketing, one of which is the use of fear. On fear, Sinek says, “When fear is being employed, facts are incidental. Deeply seated in our biological drive to survive, that emotion cannot be quickly wiped away with facts and figures.”

In the current political atmosphere, in the U.S. and around the globe, fear is often used by politicians and campaigners to polarize debates and to demonize marginalized communities, using them as scapegoats for the real economic, social, and political challenges that societies face.

Martin Luther King, Jr. understood how important fear is, so much so that he gave a sermon on it named “Antidotes for Fear.” It’s worth reading in its entirety, especially because it recognizes the importance, necessity, and creativity of fear (kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/draft-chapter-xiv-mastery-fear-or-antidotes-fear). However, particularly pertinent section was highlighted by King’s wife Coretta Scott King in her book “My life with Martin Luther King, Jr”:

“First Martin spoke of the many kinds of fear that troubled men and women in this period of change and "calamitous uncertainty"— fear of illness or economic disaster, fear of personal inadequacy in our highly competitive society. More terrible was the fear of death, even racial annihilation, in this atomic age, when the whole world teetered on "a balance of terror . . . fearful lest some diplomatic faux pas ignite a frightful holocaust."

"Some fears are normal and necessary," he said, like the fear of snakes in a jungle, but when they become neurotic and unchecked, they paralyze the will and reduce a man to apathy or despair. He quoted Emerson, who wrote, "He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear."

How, then, to overcome fear? First, Martin said, "We must un-flinchingly face our fears . . . this confrontation will, to some measure, grant us power. . . . "Second, we can master fear through one of the supreme virtues known to man— courage . . . courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.”"

MLK Coretta Scott King Simon Sinek
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