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For Codman Square NDC, Racial Equity is a Work in Progress

July 5th, 2022 by Mila Roemer

At its Annual Meeting in November 2021, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations committed to a Racial Equity Pledge, upholding their dedication to making their organization a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place. As of June 2022, 28 member organizations have signed on to the pledge as well. The pledge stemmed from a push for more racial equity from the CDC movement in the summer of 2020. Organizations who have adopted the pledge are signing on to embrace four key values: 

  • committing to learning and addressing the different levels of racism so they can take action to dismantle those inequities; 
  • their staff should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; 
  • their board should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; and 
  • authentic representation in programming/services. 

Previously, I spoke with staff from Harborlight Community Partners, Cape Community Development Partners, and Somerville Community Corporation about their action plan to advance racial equity. I just talked to Gail Latimore, Executive Director, and Marcia Thornhill, Chief Operating Officer, of Codman Square Neighborhood Corporation. Codman Square NDC works with local residents and organizations to develop safe and affordable housing space and create economic opportunity for low- to moderate- income residents in Codman Square and South Dorchester.  

Latimore emphasized the importance of including all aspects of the organization, including the board, in their racial equity work. “You cannot do racial equity work as an organization, especially as a nonprofit, without including your board and them being there right there with you,” she says. “I need to have the board involved in this issue of racial justice, because I can’t, racial justice calls for confronting the existing status quo and power structures, and I cannot be out here on my own. Even if I take a hit or the agency takes a hit, the board understands the scenario or the situation.” 

Since the pandemic and the Great Resignation, Latimore says that hiring staff who are reflective of the community has become a priority as well as a challenge. “I do want to be intentional about [hiring]. I’ve even had staff push back on that issue, and say ‘no you should not hire for this position until you can find someone who is reflective of the community’, and that’s been a tension for sure. But a tension that I definitely understand and appreciate and that I’ve been trying to balance, between needing qualified help and the issue of allies and diversity of all different types being able to add to and not necessarily take from the racial equity and justice work that we’re trying to do, which is one of the issues that we’ve been involved in and have been talking about, you know you’ve got to have allies, you can’t do it on your own. But that is a very different scenario for us, trying to be mindful, and something I’m conscious of and we’ve had straight out conversations, in the hiring process and beyond,” she said. Thornhill adds “We also want to be reflective in our work, particularly our real estate development work, in terms of who we hire... we’ve pledged to hire people of color in the real estate field both construction contractors and consultants, the soft side, consultants, architects, attorneys. So being intentional in that arena, and hiring people of color, professionals, to work on our real estate projects. And we’ve been committed, and trying to since I even got there, so we were part of the original group of six CDCs, and it's grown over the last few years.” 

One of the biggest projects centered around racial equity, though is what Latimore calls their “Equity Army”, which was inspired by “the visuals and feeling that happened with the Million Man March... the visual on the screen of the mass of black men that went to Washington DC.... I’ve always believed in the power of the collective, but seeing the sea of men in DC, that’s what gave me the thought of an equity army. People who are there to push and do whatever is necessary to change things. I had been talking about that for quite a while, and so when Geoge Floyd happened, I decided that instead of making a statement... we’re going to try to figure out a way to create change in other ways. We decided we needed to launch what is now called the Anti Racism Equity Army, and are about to offer the first module of this training academy to residents and stakeholders in the community, who can learn about the history, and the reality, and the implications of race, as sort of a baseline for them to then take the next step to then organize advocacy around racial justice issues. And those Racial justice issues can take any form... whatever residents want it to be. The goal is to launch that later this month or next month with our Resident Leadership Institute Cohort, which is also about training, so the two are aligning their work so the Resident Leadership Institute graduates, their last module of that training will be the first module of the Anti-racist equity army.”  

In their work supporting constituents during the pandemic, CSNDC made sure to keep a lens on racial equity as well. After hearing reports of residents feeling isolated, they responded “by providing a group wellness session with clinicians of color over at UMass Boston, who volunteered their time, and up until last month, continued to offer those wellness sessions, almost every month and had great attendance. We ended up having one of the best sessions, this clinician of color did such an excellent job managing the group, and I feel like I learned so much, and we were very sensitive about clinicians of color who could relate to the predominately people of color in the session, so that’s an angle of racial justice.” 

CONNECTION WITH OTHER WORK – CLIMATE JUSTICE  

Another area of work that Latimore and CSNDC make sure to consider through a racial equity lens is climate justice. “We’re doing more environmental justice work with an emphasis on communities of color, and we created a climate justice group that’s been meeting for a little over two years now, and we want to... let the people of color take the lead on what the issues are and what's most important. With our climate justice group, we created a people of color working climate justice group, and we are centering what they are saying on how we should proceed, but also engaging them on what we think is important, like legislative issues related to climate justice etc., so we’re trying to incorporate it in every way in terms of just our day to day thinking and work.” 

Looking into the future, Latimore says their racial equity work is “a work in progress, I’m still learning. I’d like to think we’re learning as an agency, because the staff who took a training last week just told us they’re going to be preparing some recommendations for us to consider, and I’m open and welcome that. I’m not saying it's always easy and I’m always going to be aligned and in agreement with everybody, but that’s what this work is all about. We have to challenge and push and prod each other, and the staff, they are not shy around this stuff. That’s both a challenge and an opportunity. It helped me grow to have them do that. And I continue to grow, and I hope that people challenge each other while still continuing to work together. It has been cooked in and baked into the way we work and operate because of that.” 

MACDC hosts meetings for both members who have already adopted the pledge and for those who are considering it. To support members in their implementation, we also offer member-only workshop opportunities through the Mel King Institute. For more information and a full list of adoptees, visit the Racial Equity Webpage. 

 

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Somerville Community Corporation's Staff & Board Undergo Racial Equity Training as a First Step after Signing on to the MACDC Racial Equity Pledge

July 5th, 2022 by Mila Roemer

At its Annual Meeting in November 2021, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations committed to a Racial Equity Pledge, upholding their dedication to making their organization a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place. As of June 2022, 28 member organizations have signed on to the pledge as well. The pledge stemmed from a push for more racial equity from the CDC movement in the summer of 2020. Organizations who have adopted the pledge are signing on to embrace four key values: 

  • committing to learning and addressing the different levels of racism so they can take action to dismantle those inequities; 
  • their staff should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; 
  • their board should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; and 
  • authentic representation in programming/services. 

Previously, I spoke with staff from Harborlight Community Partners and Cape Community Development Partners about their action plan to advance racial equity. Today, I talked to Gonzalo Puigbo, CEO of Somerville Community Corporation. SCC supports low- and moderate- income residents of Somerville in achieving economic sustainability and civic participation through work such as real estate development and financial education.  

Puigbo says that the areas he feels SCC needs to address first are “board composition and our staffing... [they’re] not very diverse... We had a nominating process [for the board] in January of this year, and we identified some people in the community that could help diversify our board, not just in composition, but also through lived experiences. I think lived experiences are key, identifying people who have similar lived experiences as our tenants.” 

Beyond working on board and staff representation, SCC "train[ed] some board members around racial equity, and the Mel King Institute provided some initial training... We wanted to incorporate those ideas from the get go but we just didn’t have the tools or the guidance to do that, so MKI provided some of that guidance, and then the Racial Equity Pledge came up and it provided a blueprint for what we needed to do,” said Puigbo 

A specific racial equity issue SCC has encountered in their work is addressing conversations surrounding policing. “Because of what happened with George Floyd two years ago, it was really important to address how tenants felt about policing security in our buildings. We have roughly about 20-30 buildings, and some of them are in locations where our tenants prefer to have police, but there are other locations where tenants prefer to have less policing, so navigating that as an organization, in establishing an understanding of making sure we take care of the needs of our tenants, and having a dialogue with the police and other security, making sure they know policing is important, but it's also important that we address health, human services, and other issues that could potentially limit police exposure and increase public services. We’re still struggling with that conversation,” said Puigbo, explaining the complications and complexities of the issue.  

Puigbo says looking into the future, SCC’s racial equity plans are to “finalize the training with the racial equity pledge, and once we move from that direction we want to start incorporating Lunch and Learns with all of our staff members, we’ve already started a dialogue in our meetings that this is going to be important moving forward, and to incorporate the staff members into our decision process, because a selective team, have been a part of this ongoing training, but we want to expose our staff so that the decisions we make are always within a racial equity lens.” 

MACDC hosts meetings for both members who have already adopted the pledge and for those who are considering it. To support members in their implementation, we also offer member-only workshop opportunities through the Mel King Institute. For more information and a full list of adoptees, visit the Racial Equity Webpage

 

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Community Development Partnership Takes Steps Towards Advancing Racial Equity on the Cape

July 5th, 2022 by Mila Roemer

At its Annual Meeting in November 2021, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations committed to a Racial Equity Pledge, upholding their dedication to making their organization a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place. As of June 2022, 28 member organizations have signed on to the pledge as well. The pledge stemmed from a push for more racial equity from the CDC movement in the summer of 2020. Organizations who have adopted the pledge are signing on to embrace four key values: 

  • committing to learning and addressing the different levels of racism so they can take action to dismantle those inequities;
  • their staff should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; 
  • their board should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; and 
  • authentic representation in programming/services. 

Previously, I spoke with Andrew DeFranza of Harborlight Community Partners about their action plan to advance racial equity. Recently, I talked to Jay Coburn, President and CEO, and Andrea Aldana, Chief Program Officer, of Cape Community Development Partners. Cape CDP serve populations farthest down on Cape Cod through work like affordable housing development and small business support.  

Cape CDP signed onto MACDC’s Racial Equity Pledge in February of 2022. “We’ve had to start at square zero, I mean, talking about history, talking about language, talking about terms. Even though a lot of staff are connected to the issue from a community development perspective, there’s still a lot of varying levels of comfort talking about it from within the organization, and we recognize that we need to grapple with that before we can really have an external conversation. That was why being part of the Cohort was so useful in getting us to develop a plan,” said Coburn on their participation in MACDC’s Racial Equity Cohort and how that experience supported their work for the Pledge.  

Cape CDP is currently working to address the board representation aspect of the pledge, and then are hoping to move onto staff representation. Much of their work already interacts with the root causes of racial inequity, but Aldana says “I don’t think we’ve quite put ourselves in that position where we’re having that conversation, at least explicitly but eventually, we will be.” 

They’ve faced challenges engaging with this work in a primarily white community. “One of the things we’ve been saying when people say, well our community is so white, we’ll say, well why is that? Why do you think that happened? And I think getting to, well why haven’t we done very many microloans to people of color. How do our residents, who are racial and ethnic minorities feel about our housing, and our programs and where they live?” says Coburn. 

Aldana explained “Something that I think is interesting about the Racial Equity cohort, and the pledge in general, is that it’s creating a container for us to bring the history of community development to our staff, to understand where community development came from, the social movements it was born out of, and really understanding racial equity in this more structural frame. I don’t think people think about our microlending program being mindful of the history of white supremacy. That’s not a conversation that rolls off the tongue. But I think we’re setting ourselves up to start having those conversations down the road, which will be really awesome.” 

MACDC hosts meetings for both members who have already adopted the pledge and for those who are considering it. To support members in their implementation, we also offer member-only workshop opportunities through the Mel King Institute. For more information and a full list of adoptees, visit the Racial Equity Webpage

 

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Harborlight Community Partners Commits to Advancing Racial Equity

June 14th, 2022 by Mila Roemer

At its Annual Meeting in November 2021, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations committed to a Racial Equity Pledge, upholding their dedication to making their organization a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place. As of June 2022, 28 member organizations have signed on to the pledge as well. The pledge stemmed from a push for more racial equity from the CDC movement in the summer of 2020. Organizations who have adopted the pledge are signing on to embrace four key values: 

  1. committing to learning and addressing the different levels of racism so they can take action to dismantle those inequities; 
  2. their staff should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; 
  3. their board should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; and 
  4. authentic representation in programming/services. 

Harborlight Community Partners provides and advocates for affordable and inclusive housing in communities north of Boston, such as Beverly and Hamilton, through property management, real estate development, resident services, and public education. Prior to signing onto the Racial Equity Pledge in December 2021, they were engaged in discussions regarding racial equity. Those conversations were paused in the summer of 2020, to seek out CDC wide efforts and movements to address issues of racial inequity. 

“We’re looking at MACDC’s pledge format and trying to plan around that, the action items to take to further our objectives in this space, to advance substantively education and knowledge in the staff and board... as well as some technical items around how we’re functioning, how we’re investing time, energy, money, how we’re recruiting for the board, staff, and other groups” said Andrew DeFranza, Executive Director of Harborlight, on how the pledge is intersecting with their prior racial equity work.  

Harborlight has been working to increase representation, equity, inclusivity, and diversity in all levels of their work. “The main issue with it had been holding seats on the board for people of color...and you have to find people who want to do it, in the region, who have statistically little access. It's harder to find people who are interested, who are qualified, and have the experience,” said DeFranza of challenges with this work. “We're very active on the development front for the percentage of minority workers hours in our MBE participation, and that’s been quite successful”.  

Looking into the future, DeFranza is “very supportive and interested in the idea of going upstream and providing training and internship capacity to get to younger candidates of color...to create a pipeline.” Providing young candidates of color with these opportunities early on will help address challenges CDC’s face when it comes to representation among their staff and board, he said.  

MACDC hosts meetings for both members who have already adopted the pledge and for those who are considering it. To support members in their implementation, we also offer member-only workshop opportunities through the Mel King Institute. For more information and a full list of adoptees, visit the Racial Equity Webpage.  

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