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Meet Tiana Lawrence, MKI’s New Program Associate ~ Year-End Reflections

December 13th, 2021 by Tiana Lawrence

While working with the Mel King Institute's Public Housing Training Program, I have witnessed and taken part in its expansion into the Resident Leadership Academy. Through this work, I have had firsthand experiences with residents working through the challenges and successes of building an authentic sense of community, social capital, power, and ensuring sustainable resident-focused organizing efforts.

The work of the Resident Leadership Academy has been increasingly crucial to creating transformative and ongoing growth in the lives of residents. Working directly with residents has been an experience like no other, as they bring an abundance of diverse lived experience, charisma, curiosity, and dedication to the mission and goals of the Resident Leadership Academy. As a trainer and a point of contact and support for residents, I have had lively one-on-one conversations, compelling Core Team Trainings, and uplifting roundtables and webinars that have supported residents in stepping into their power.

The ability to foster and maintain relationships with and amongst the statewide resident network is key to moving the needle in this work. As the residents breathe life into the Resident Leadership Academy, their active and consistent participation in our programs impact them at both the micro and macro level. Through our programs, residents have worked tirelessly to strengthen and exercise their voice and power in their Housing Authorities, on their boards, and as leaders in their communities, showing success in all areas. The worth in this work is seen during trainings and webinars where residents challenge the status quo, ask necessary questions, engage with the information presented, and walk into their confidence. 

The beauty of the Resident Leadership Academy is the moments of impact in the personal, social, and communal lives of the residents; the moments where you see knowledge and skills being applied, voices being shared and heard, connections deepened, fears overcome, and a growth and radiance in a resident’s sense of self. The allure of the program is its ability to provide ongoing support, knowledge, and resources for residents as they turn their dream of higher quality life in housing into a reality. 

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An Update on MACDC’s Racial Equity Work

June 9th, 2021 by Tiana Lawrence

After the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor in the spring of 2020, a national and global uprising and fight towards racial justice, equity and peace was reignited. As a response to the collective action, many Massachusetts based Community Development Corporations expressed the necessity of increasing and strengthening their commitment to racial equity work. Consequently, MACDC has been engaging members since, leading in racial equity initiatives and supporting the membership in their journeys. Here’s a timeline of action steps taken so far: 

Summer 2020  

  • MACDC’s 2020 Member Survey collects data on the various racial equity efforts being taken by the membership. 
  • The Organizer's Peer group decides to work together on Racial Equity.  
  • The Organizer's Peer group develops a racial equity pledge and asks MACDC members to sign on. 
  • Organizers meet with the Alliance Steering Committee.  
  • A working group of organizers and one Mel King Alliance Steering Committee member further develop the pledge including discussions with their executive directors and organizations’ racial equity/diversity/inclusion committee members. 

Winter 2020 

  • MACDC hosts their 2020 Member Meeting: Venturing Towards Racial Equity. 
  • The Organizers Peer group presents the racial equity pledge at the MACDC member meeting on racial equity. 
  • The MACDC Board agrees to include the pledge as part of MACDC's racial equity work. 

Winter 2021 

  • MACDC develops a Racial Equity Advisory Committee to discuss racial equity work being done, where it is headed, and further develop and distribute the racial equity pledge to the larger membership. 

Racial Equity Advisory Committee Members  

  • Joseph Kriesberg, Executive Director; MACDC 
  • Shirronda Almeida, Director; MKI 
  • Pamela Bender, Senior Organizer; MACDC 
  • Tiana Lawrence, Community Engagement Fellow; MKI 
  • Kimberly Lyle, Director of Strategy and Development; Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation 
  • Emilio Dorcely, Chief Executive Officer; Urban Edge 
  • Jennifer Van Campen, Executive Director; Metro West Collaborative Development 
  • Samantha Montano, Senior Community Organizer; JPNDC 
  • Sharon Fosbury, Director of Community Building; TNDINC 
  • Francisco Ramos, Director of Community Organizing; New Vue Communities

 

  • MACDC and the Racial Equity Advisory Committee begins to work with All Aces, Inc. for guidance and support with the process and distribution of the racial equity pledge and next steps. 
  • MACDC distributes a Diversity, Inclusion, Equity Transformation (DIET) assessment and holds focus groups for members in partnership with All Aces. 

Spring 2021 

  • MACDC staff and the Racial Equity Advisory Committee reviews the data summary from the DIET Assessment. 
  • The Racial Equity Advisory Committee continues to meet, discuss and develop the racial equity pledge and avenues for the process of having the MACDC membership sign on. 
  • The Mel King Institute holds its largest virtual Stand Against Racism Event. Check out the blog post about the event.
  • Members of the Racial Equity Advisory Committee attend All Aces workshops.  

Summer 2021 

  • MACDC staff and the Racial Equity Advisory Committee continues to discuss and finalize the racial equity pledge and work with All Aces to roll out the pledge and All Aces workshops to the larger memberships. 

Next Steps 

  • Finalize and launch the racial equity pledge. 
  • Provide activities and trainings to support those committing to the pledge. 

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The Mel King Institute held its largest virtual Stand Against Racism event on April 29

May 12th, 2021 by Tiana Lawrence

Annually, the Mel King Institute takes part in the YWCA’s nation-wide Stand Against Racism Campaign. This campaign takes place each year during the month of April, allowing individuals and organizations to register their own unique events and be part of the movement. This year on April 29, 2021, the Mel King Institute held its largest virtual Stand Against Racism event with a total of 90 participants.

The event featured a conversation amongst Black Executive Directors in the Community Development field. Our panelists featured Emilio Dorcely, CEO of Urban Edge in Boston; Keith Fairey, President and CEO of Way Finders in Springfield; and Gail Latimore, Executive Director of Codman Square NDC in Dorchester. The dialogue was centered around what racial equity looks like for communities of color, highlighting their approaches, challenges, and opportunities. The panelists were asked to discuss what drives and keeps them committed to equity and community development work, their organizational approaches to racial equity, the challenges faced as a leader of color when engaging in racial justice at the organizational level, how they take care of themselves, and lastly, what opportunities they see for themselves and their organizations as they move forward.

In particular, the panelists shared powerful stories and insights that underscored the necessity of great leadership, strong infrastructure, racial equity work and dynamic spaces to discuss these topics.

Highlights from the panelists and moderators include:

  • Opportunities and challenges faced between and within boards, organizations, and leaders of color.
  • Acknowledgment of the racial equity journey and continuous learning.
  • The importance of remembering that we must expect non-closure when engaged in this work.
  • A leading question posed to the attendees was, “How do we do a better job, as an organization, internally, on racial equity issues?”
  • The concept of reparations was underscored, and the impact of a large and diverse staff was highlighted.
  • The challenge of individuals, communities, and leaders of color wanting to be happy but not necessarily having the tools to do so was noted.
  • Recognition was given to the dynamics, impact, and experiences of tokenism, internalized racism, and trauma as they exist in the lives of leaders and communities of color.
  • Regarding racial equity, the following comment was shared, “Moments turn to momentum and momentum turns into movements.”

The event lasted an hour and a half, and featured a context setting overview of the four levels of racism, a networking component, featured panelists, a question-and-answer portion, and lastly, participants created a word cloud capturing one word to describe what we should keep in mind while continuing to engage in racial equity and community development work. There was dynamic energy from the facilitators, panelists, and attendees.

Overall, this year’s Stand Against Racism was successful in offering a space for Black leaders in the CDC field to have honest and engaging dialogue and share their insightful experiences with racial equity work. The Mel King Institute is hoping to continue these conversations with BIPOC leaders.

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