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 interviewed was Andrew DeFranza of Harborlight Community Partners, who spoke 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.
Mila Roemer is a student at Northeastern University and MACDC's Communications Intern.