Working to build a better, more equitable Center and community
After the white supremacist rallies here in August 2017, The Center created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) that examined the organization’s core values and existing practices and introduced a number of initiatives to make The Center more welcoming to all.
In summer 2020, when the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery spurred a national uprising, we again reflected on our part in the historic problems of race in our community. Like many, we acknowledged complacency about societal injustices and resistance to change.
Racism is counter to The Center’s mission, vision, and values. While The Center has not been an advocacy organization per se, civic engagement is a vital part of our commitment to healthy aging for ALL people. Recognizing the major challenges relating to systemic racism and the complexity of this issue, the Board of Directors created a Racial Equity Task Force (RETF) in September 2020 to develop recommendations for advancing equity and inclusion both within our organization and in conjunction with local efforts.
Understanding community needs was crucial to guiding our efforts, and we were fortunate to have volunteers on the task force with deep experience, knowledge, and commitment of the issues. Juandiego Wade chaired the group, and he was joined by Kaki Dimock, Don Gathers, Dr. Ebony Hilton, Enid B. Krieger, Deidra Massie, Siri Russell, and Christine Thalwitz.
With input from multiple stakeholders, RETF members identified key issues on which The Center, within the scope of its mission, should focus its resources and, in March 2021, presented its recommendations in a report to the Board. A key component was the formation of a Board-level special committee to draft an equity action plan that will prioritize three focus areas: Organizational Commitment, Leadership & Governance; Organizational Climate, Culture & Communications; and Community Collaboration. The equity action plan will inform the strategic plan currently under development.
The task force emphasized that its recommendations—unanimously approved by the Board—were just a start to the work we seek to accomplish in our community. “This,” wrote the report authors, “is ‘forever’ work that will continue to evolve. It will require significant leadership, resources, and accountability, but in prioritizing this work, The Center will evolve to be truly equitable and have profound impacts on our community.”
As a community resource, The Center has a responsibility to build an inclusive culture that reflects diverse racial, ethnic, and economic groups. Only by becoming more representative of the communities we serve can we fulfill our mission and achieve our vision of a healthy community for all.