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Advancing Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion at The Center

Board of Directors Approves Racial Equity Task Force Recommendations

May/June 2021

Last September, The Center Board of Directors created a Racial Equity Task Force (RETF) to develop recommendations for how The Center will advance equity, diversity, and inclusion within the organization. The origins and objectives of the task force were detailed in an article in the January/February edition of News from The Center (see below).

Over the course of six months, with input from multiple stakeholders, RETF members Kaki Dimock, Don Gathers, Dr. Ebony Hil­ton, Enid Krieger, Deidra Massie, Siri Rus­sell, Christine Thalwitz, Peter Thompson, and chair Juandiego Wade identified key issues on which The Center, within the scope of its mission, should focus its resources. They de­termined that initial efforts should be directed internally before we can stand effectively with other organizations and work in partnership to drive change.

At a meeting on March 22, the RETF pre­sented its recommendations in a report to the Board. “The report sets forth a specific, struc­tured, long-term plan for changing and im­proving The Center’s legacy of racial equity and inclusion in the Charlottesville community,” said Wade. A key component is 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. This special committee will be comprised of board, staff, Center, and commu­nity members.

With unanimous approval from the Board, work on creating the special committee has begun. The Task Force emphasized that its rec­ommendations are 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.

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"This work 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.”

Working to Build a Better, More Equitable Center and Community

January/February 2021

In June, executive director Peter Thompson shared a statement about The Center’s commitment to being an anti-racist organization. He wrote that we would build on the work we began after the white supremacist rallies here in August 2017, when we 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.

The committee has done vital work focused on programming and community outreach, but when the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery spurred a national uprising, we reflected again 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 is not 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 Center Board of Directors formed a Racial Equity Task Force (RETF) that began meeting in October to develop a plan for advancing equity and inclusion both within our organization and in conjunction with local efforts.

Understanding community needs is crucial to guiding our efforts, and we are fortunate to have volunteers on the Task Force with deep experience, knowledge, and commitment of the issues.

Chairing the group is Juandiego Wade, the Career Center Coordinator with Albemarle County Department of Social Services, and member and past chair of the Charlottesville School Board. He is involved in numerous community nonprofit organizations, including as Board Chair of United Way of Greater Charlottesville, and was recognized for his many contributions with the Charlottesville Cham­ber of Commerce Paul Goodloe McIntire Citizenship Award.

“I was honored when The Center asked me to serve on the RETF. I had served on different committees for The Center in the past and had a full plate, but I felt a calling to serve on the RETF during this time in our community and nation,” said Juan. “I consider The Center a community resource. A resource that should be accessible to all in the community. I am confident that the work of the RETF will result in The Center being more reflective of the community it serves. We have a dynamic task force willing to put in the time and work.”

Joining Juandiego are:

Kaki Dimock, Director of Human Services for the City of Charlottesville. A social worker by training, she has a deep commitment to meeting the needs of community through collaboration, inclusivity, and primary prevention.

Don Gathers, an organizer with the Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) and co-founder of Charlottesville Black Lives Matter. He is also a member of the UVA Equity Center Steering Committee, Unity Days Committee, Charlottesville Clergy Collective, Ground Theory of Structural Racism Steering Committee, and Congregate Charlottesville.

Dr. Ebony Hilton, an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at UVA Medical Center and an associate professor at the School of Medicine. She has studied health disparities for years and is a nationally recognized expert on how institutional racism has led to more severe impacts for communities of color from diseases such as COVID-19.

Enid B. Krieger, a retired hospital executive with 38 years of leadership experience in healthcare administration and management. She has been a leader and member of several nonprofit boards and committees and is currently a member of the Institution­al Review Board at UVA Medical Center. Enid also serves on The Center’s DEIC and played the lead role in developing our recent speaker series on equity issues.

Deidra Massie, Sales and Marketing Director at The Colonnades. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Osher Lifelong Living Institute (OLLI) and The Center at Bel­vedere. Deidra also works with the local food bank through her church.

Siri Russell, Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion for Albemarle County. Her work includes strengthening community partnerships and directing the Community Remembrance Project. Siri has also served on the boards of Charlottesville Pride Com­munity Network and the Junior League of Charlottesville.

Christine Thalwitz, who teaches Spanish at Buford Middle School and Piedmont Vir­ginia Community College. She is co-owner of the Bavarian Chef and is a principal mar­keting consultant with ACAC. Christine also serves on The Center’s Board of Directors.

The primary objectives of the RETF are to (1) identify the key equity, diversity and inclusion issues on which The Center, within the scope of its mission, should initially focus its resources, and (2) develop a set of recommendations to address these issues long term. Working with the DEIC and staff, the Task Force will create an action plan and make recommendations in the spring; those approved by the Board of Directors will inform the strategic planning process set to begin this year.