We cannot advance the health and well-being of kids and their communities — our mission — if we do not address systemic racism and White supremacy culture.
This work starts within our agency. We understand that it is possible to do harm unintentionally, even when we believe we are doing good. Further, we understand that although our work has always aimed to further equity, we have also been complicit in systemic racism by, for example: failing to examine how the structure of our initiatives can privilege White voices and interests, failing to consistently and explicitly name policies and systems as racist when they have disparate impacts, and failing to challenge inequities in how nonprofits are funded.
We want to do better. In our statement issued on June 9, 2020, we committed to doing so in at least 4 ways. In this, our second statement, we describe how we are following through on this commitment. We are preparing additional updates which will explore the many ways we are taking action in yet more detail.
The urgency and impact of racial injustice in our work demands both immediate action and lasting efforts. We are therefore making a durable commitment to this work by evaluating and updating the guiding documents, including: Employee Handbook, Finance Manual, Strategic Plan and others to include specific policies, methods and goals for building an anti-racist agency culture and improving racial equity within our agency and through our initiatives.
This is not a one time commitment; it includes annually defining the tactics, milestones and frequency for strategies outlined below. We will complete the first round of this process by year end, 2020.
Learn: Increase staff and board knowledge and skills, and build an anti-racist agency culture committed to advancing racial equity.
- Require participation in regular trainings provided by experts, including those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), no less than three times annually.
- Support participation in cultural competency coalition(s) and trainings in the community.
- Encourage participation in organizations which provide training, resources and accountability for racial justice. For example, Showing Up For Racial Justice
- Invite staff and board members to share relevant resources and information at staff meetings and through all-staff communications.
- Ensure that our contracting practices, including for trainers, advance racial equity and center BIPOC leaders.
- Create safe spaces for difficult conversations. We can and must do difficult things.
Assess: Conduct self-assessments and accountable evaluations to understand, monitor and adapt our efforts at advancing racial equity.
- Engage staff in completing an annual equity audit, such as this one at We Are Beloved.
- Identify methods for evaluating initiatives through a racial equity lens, including how we will engage staff, board members, contractors, partners, stakeholders and clients (including people who are BIPOC) those efforts. For example, completing the National Farm to School Network Equity Assessment Tool and encouraging partners to do the same.
- Identify tools for individual self-assessment for use by staff.
Action: Identify short- and long-term actions for us as an organization, and in our initiatives which:
- Seek equitable engagement and leadership of people who are BIPOC in our initiatives and governance.
- Ensure initiatives and communications advance racial equity and identify racist policies and systems as such.
- Improve our accountability.
- Encourage our partners and supporters to engage in this work in their own agencies and as individuals.
- Build anti-racist culture, such as creating safe pathways for feedback.
Although some of this work will take months to complete, and nearly all of it will be ongoing, we have already begun to take action. Here are a few highlights about those efforts, which we’ll expand upon in forthcoming articles.
- From the very start, the food and agricultural systems in our nation have relied on land theft from, and economic and physical exploitation of those who are BIPOC. This remains true today, and harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent recession and policy responses are even more acute for the BIPOC workers who grow, harvest, process, prepare and serve our food. As we pivot to address these challenges, we are seeking advice and leadership from BIPOC communities and BIPOC-led organizations confronting racism in the food and agriculture system. Read 6 Action items for racial equity to learn more and take action.
- We’ve always sought to oppose policies that create health and economic disparities. As we have begun to examine our initiatives with fresh eyes, we are finding ways to do that more effectively. This includes explicitly naming policies as racist when they are at odds with racial equity. It also includes examining how to ensure that our initiatives help others to identify racism in systems and policies. With this in mind, we have begun to update youth advocacy tools to help kids see connections between racism, policies and health disparities, and will equip them to speak out for changes that improve health outcomes not just for their own community but for every child in Kansas City.
- As a core partner of the National Farm to School Network, we completed their Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool for Farm to School Programs and Policy. The tool was designed to advance the network’s racial and social equity priority by increasing our understanding of the work in the context of structural, institutional, and interpersonal racism. As a result of that process, we increased engagement of BIPOC communities in the program.
We invite our partners and supporters to join us in this journey by using the links included in each of the preceding actions, and staying tuned as we post additional progress updates and calls to action. Our collective progress and growth is essential to our ability to advance equity.
Photos: A grocery worker talks with Jane Philbrook, Kansas City, Kansas Commissioner; Maxine Drew, board president of Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools meets with students from her district; Marquita Williams, an early education professional, encourages children to use their gross motor skills; Jamesha Price, a former teacher at M.E Pearson, shows children how to plant seeds at Splitlog Farm and Orchard.