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.