Dear Friends,

As I reflect on the current state of our country, on the pain so many of us are feeling, and on the reality that it is not safe to simply breathe and exist as a Black person in America, a quote from the President of Paul Quinn College, Michael Sorrell, keeps replaying in my mind.

“If we really cared about equity, we would have done something about it already.”

To our Black colleagues: We hope you can find space for yourselves today and in the days ahead. You have spent every day of your life fighting against racism and you deserve to feel safe, secure, and recognized for your humanity. We stand beside you with our full heads and our open hearts.

To our white colleagues: It’s not enough for us to talk about race—it’s time to mobilize and activate in complete support of our Black and Brown neighbors and friends—those we know and those we have yet to meet. And it’s beyond time to get uncomfortable. We must be bold in calling out racism in every place we see it—especially among our own friends and family. We must truly value people over profits and prioritize anti-racist action over complicit silence. If we continue to ignore racism and white supremacy by not addressing the racists in our lives, within our organizations, and within our communities, we are not anti-racist but instead enablers of the systemic racism that brought us to this time.

The narrative of our nation is dangerous and it is deadly. But our silence is also fatal.

All lives will not matter until Black Lives Matter. For George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the millions of other Black people unjustifiably murdered as a result of our racist systems, we must do better in our advocacy and our allyship. In reference to Sorrell’s quote, the time is now to do something about it.

We can’t let this be another moment when our country passively witnesses racism without taking bold actions toward change.

If you don’t know where to start, consider joining our team in one or more of the following actions:

In last week’s virtual community conversation on planning beyond COVID-19, we talked about how systems change is people change. Our next virtual community conversation—on Thursday, June 18 at 4 p.m. ET—will be on how we can truly center race equity in our work, our communities, and our society. We will be joined by Carolyn Lowery, racial equity professional and Mission Forward instructor.

Register here to join the conversation.

Please take care of yourselves,

Carrie Fox

Founder and CEO

A group of students sit around a conference table, learning from Carolyn Lowery

Like many in our community and around the world, Mission Partners and Leadership Montgomery made the decision to postpone our annual Spring Convening, The Business Case for Race Equity. The rescheduled event will now take place on October 6th at AMP by Strathmore. To keep this important conversation going between now and October, Mission Partners will share a monthly racial equity blog featuring interviews with business leaders and community members embedded in this work. 

Here’s the second blog in our series featuring an interview between Carrie Fox and Carolyn Lowery, a new instructor with Mission Forward E-Learning.

Carrie Fox: Hi Carolyn. I’d like to use this blog to introduce you to our community as a new instructor for Mission Forward E-Learning. Could you start by sharing your journey and motivation for racial equity work?

Carolyn Lowery: That could be a very long answer! As an African American woman race has always been part of my life. Starting school is really when I remember having to address issues of race, racism and equity. I would have to work harder or be well-mannered to not draw attention to myself — there were lessons I learned at a very young age. I learned there were haves and haves not and often that was based on race. That led me to stretch myself in terms of understanding culture more, being more empathetic, listening more. 

In seventh grade my friend was diagnosed with Seasonal Affect Disorder. She was out of school but her family had access [to treatment] so she was able to leave and come back to her grade and be successful. I went to a different school in high school, with more people of color and a different socio-economic class. I saw a person who went through almost the same experience but didn’t have the same access to the same level of care. She was held back a grade, it affected her self-esteem, her social group and she dealt with many things I don’t think my friend in seventh grade had to experience. And so realizing that difference is what led me to thinking about this deeply. 

CF: What has been your pathway into the work that you do?

CL: I have always been fairly involved in justice or fairness. Justice has always been a big part of my character. As I got older and as I was thinking about a career, I wanted to impact that as best I could. That has looked different over the years because I had to learn my skills and learn myself – where my strengths were. That journey itself was its own equity journey. 

Having different levels of mentorship — or not — or opportunity — or not — or being put in jobs where my skills were not the strongest, I think a lot of it had to do with race and gender. It didn’t help speed the process for me to get where I want to be professionally and I have seen that happen with a lot of friends and colleagues of mine of color. The roadmap to get to where they wanted to be was a lot harder because of equity issues in workplaces. These deeply rooted constructs and policies we have in our country are not fair and they don’t serve our country if there is no fairness. 

CF: What is your take on businesses publicly working on race action plans?

CL: I think race equity work is human work. Creating policies and plans is part of the work, but how they are executed is what really matters. I have not seen a plan that considers a human being – I have seen a lot of plans that say you can’t do this or we will encourage this thing. But how to foster that and get there is a human development aspect, not necessarily a policy. So I’ve seen plans that have been put in place but the inequities lasted. I think because of the lack of humanity and understanding that interacting with someone is just interacting with a human being – it doesn’t matter the color, race, gender, etc.

I have also seen that it is really hard for people to be human because it requires vulnerability and that is not something that is often rewarded in our country or our work spaces. Without these things it is really hard to create equity. The plan can be fantastic but it has to be the people who are willing to make the changes. It’s a shift in thinking and behaviors and that is hard work. 

CF: Could you help us define an organization that gets it right? And some specific policies that help bring race equity to life?

CL: There is one organization I lift up all the time – Consumer Health Foundation led by Yanique Redwood. 

It’s incredible the way she has worked to bring equity into the office. She has personally and professionally spent time analyzing what inequities look like. She took a sabbatical and thought deeply about what needed to change in the leadership and the processes and policies — and then she implemented them. Some things she changed are how often people need to be in the office; working from home grants more flexibility and that is related to equity in a lot of different ways. Or when somebody has a doctor’s appointment they can take the day off. Because health is important and so you’re not rushed to have to get back to your job or your work when you’re thinking about health challenges. 

These are human things that relate to equity in the work place. I know the staff there are extremely productive and incredible people. Her thought process of understanding the human connection to an equity plan led to a better work environment, which leads to equity. 

CF: I have one last question for you – and it’s about teaching. Can you share why you love teaching and what about teaching sparks a fire within you?

CL: I love teaching because I learn. Whether I’m in front of a class or online, I have to learn. If I am preparing anything to teach, the depth of information and detail that I’d like to give requires me to learn. I love being in front of people and having discussions, I think that is the best way to exchange ideas and for innovations. I think it is also a skill of mine to be able to relate to people in personal ways and for them to learn information in a way that is best for them. When you’re in front of a classroom you can see how people learn and it stretches me to think more innovatively about how to share information. Seeing that click of understanding in students and learners is very rewarding and it’s very rewarding for the student as well. 

I also just believe that information is another equity issue and challenge. Hoarding information is a way that inequities can continue and I strongly believe that people should have as much information as they want and can have and can hold in whatever area that they are interested in. So this is a way for me to balance the playing field a bit. Information is so important and it’s not something that can be taken away. Once you have it, it’s yours and you can use it in the way that is best for you.

CF: Thank you, Carolyn. I have really enjoyed talking with you today. 

CL: This was interesting and it made me think, thank you. 

C.Marie Taylor with Montgomery County first responders during the April 2020 Leadership Montgomery Core Class Session

Like many in our community and around the world, Mission Partners and Leadership Montgomery made the decision to postpone our annual Spring Convening, The Business Case for Race Equity. The rescheduled event will now take place on October 6th at AMP by Strathmore. To keep this important conversation going between now and October, Mission Partners will share a monthly racial equity blog featuring interviews with business leaders and community members embedded in this work. 

Here’s the first blog in our series featuring an interview between Carrie Fox and  C. Marie Taylor, President and CEO of Leadership Montgomery. 

Q1. Hi C. Marie. Just a few weeks ago, the topic of race equity was pressing on the minds of many major corporations and foundations across the U.S.  But here we are now during a global public health crisis, where no community and no company is immune to the challenges of COVID19. Companies have shifted their efforts to the crisis of now: Keeping their doors open, doing the best they can to keep their employees on payroll, and protecting their customers and clients from COVID19.

At a time like this, when the world is wrapped up in surviving COVID19, why can’t we afford to let down our guard on issues of race equity?  What happens if businesses only think about the health of their bottom line over the health of their workforce?

Thanks, Carrie.  As you’re talking about keeping businesses open, if you think about the frontline workers who are doing that work, they are usually people of color. If you don’t think about race equity, soon you won’t have the staff to keep businesses open. All of this affects what is happening with the economy. It starts from the one person that is giving you the Uber Eats all the way up to Marriott closing its doors. It’s an entire system we have to think about. 

You can’t stop thinking about how all this plays out to the bottom line because when we rebound, who is going to buy your product? There could also be opportunities to change how you’re doing your work but you’re missing those key voices at the table. If you’re not thinking through an equity lens and have the frontline worker standing next to the person that has all the shares — and saying well here’s how we could do business differently — you’re missing all that opportunity by putting it to the side. 

Q2. Related, what kinds of questions should employers and business leaders be asking themselves now, and what outcomes should they be working towards?

They should be asking who is on the frontline, how are we protecting those on the frontline and what systems do we have in place if, God forbid, they get sick. We can’t keep our business going if they don’t have healthcare or access to public transportation. Many frontline workers have to take public transportation, which is almost at a halt. Am I paying them a wage where they can afford to drive to work or have a car? As we’re taking a pause you have to think about transportation, housing, healthcare, even your marketing – you have to look at it through an equity lens because you’re missing an opportunity to learn how to show up after this crisis ends. It would be amazing if business owners could think about, “Well if I was back on that frontline, is this how I wanted to be served as the employee?” If you take off your president hat and look through an equity lens and think I am Bob who is working at Safeway next to Susie with no protection and really back healthcare, is that how I want to be treated? So here is your chance to pause and put yourself back in that position through an equity lens. 

 

Q3. I know the Kellogg Report, The Business Case for Racial Equity made a big impression on you, and you saw quite a bit of applicability to our community here in Montgomery County. Tell me more about what resonated with you about that report, and why it’s so important to be driving messages of race equity home in Montgomery County.

There are a bunch of things that spoke to me, but one of the big things is how the inequities in healthcare show up and cause a huge burden on the rest of the system. That is completely timely right now. If you think about the three big pillars of the Kellogg report, they talk about housing, education, and healthcare and the gaps in these areas – those are all showing up right now. To tie this back to the economy, if we have the opportunity to do some drastic changes around those inequities now, then perhaps for the next crisis, if there is one,  the economy will be better equipped to not need so many bailouts because there is more equity across the system. Now I don’t need as much, because you gave me more. If you think about these trillion dollar bills that are passing, those resources were there all along but if we had spread it out a little differently and thought through an equity lens, perhaps we wouldn’t need so many of the bailouts that are happening. It will be interesting to see how the bailouts trickle across and down. 

 

Q4. Montgomery County made history not too long ago with its racial equity bill, but there has been a lot of skepticism in the community about if that will amount to much in terms of real change.  What does having that racial equity bill in place mean to you, and what does success need to look like as a result of the bill?

What success looks like to me is hope for the future and being pragmatic about it. We have leaps and bounds to go. In terms of where we are as a county, it goes back to that point I was making before. We have $5.5 billion in this county in terms of resources. And it’s not until we got to this crisis mode that we start thinking about distributing those resources differently. If we had done that through an equity lens 20 years ago we would have figured out all the pockets of need — or areas kids need laptops to drill down to one specific thing — and they would have already had them. Now you’re scrambling to get them, when we knew all along there are kids that don’t have access to food, laptops, internet, healthcare, eyeglass and now we’re running around trying to figure it out. From this point forward, here’s our opportunity to make a change. Are they going to have voices at the table who are completely affected so they can think about how they do the work? Are they going to talk to parents who don’t have internet, who don’t have laptops, who don’t have cars to get to the food that’s being distributed and figure out how to have a different system so it’s not as hard to get this work done. 

Q5. You work with hundreds of leaders every year, across all sectors. What are some of the themes you hear year after year in LM classes about issues of race? Where do you see progress being made, and where do you think progress needs to happen faster among our region’s leadership?

The number thing I hear is “I didn’t know.” And that speaks volumes to what information has been given to us as children, as adults, or what information we seek — I’m speaking particularly around race, racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion. And particularly these are typically non-people of color who are saying I didn’t know this or I didn’t know that. And then my question is why didn’t they know that; I know all of these things. So what are we doing to help them figure that out?

The thing that gives me a little bit of hope and where I see some change now is there is more willingness to talk about it. People are saying I didn’t know and I’m willing to talk further. And then after there needs to be collaboration, dedication and investment to action. It’s one thing to say I don’t know race is a social construct, but what are you going to do to learn more about that? Or what are you going to do to take it back to your office, educate yourself more, educate your staff and show up a little bit differently. That’s what I would love to see. I see it individually with some companies and I stay hopeful. 

Q6. When it comes to race in the workplace, it seems that we’re often talking around the issues, but very often companies don’t feel equipped to take on the issue. Talking from the perspective of an employer and organizational leader, how have you faced this within Leadership Montgomery, and what guidance or tools would you offer to those who are working to build equitable and inclusive organizations?

We’ve developed an entire body of work called Leadership in Action, it can take organizations from having a two hour conversation about race to a two day conversation about race. We are trying to meet people where they are at the “I don’t know” statement to really investing and changing their organizational culture. We started this work within. We looked at our staffing, business values, core statement and worked with Mission Partners on strategic messaging and planning. So we started internally to figure out what work we needed to do on equity before we took it externally, and from there have been able to launch this work based on the lessons we learned and what we hear are Leadership Montgomery’s core strengths and the community needs. 

Q7. What needs to go into a race equity plan before you put it into the world?

The first thing is that there has to be internal commitment to seeing the work through. There has to be atual dollars and investment, group buy-in from everyone in the organization and you have to have someone from the outside come in and help you. They can take a critical lens to see where there is buy-in or push back to help marry the two. And I think by having someone like Mission Partners or Leadership Montgomery help them figure out that work, they can as a collective body show up differently. This work is sticky, hard, people don’t get it, and there are moments of vulnerability that leaders don’t want to talk about. But on the other side you get a beautiful work product that can help you show up differently and by having an external person or organization they can help you wade through that and really map it out so you don’t feel stuck. For us, we tackled it head on and we brought it outside people to help with this intneral work. 

Q8. We can say culture is formed anywhere, but inside an organizational culture start at the top. It is the tone that we set, the actions we take, and how we talk and engage that others will follow. As we think more about this time of pause, how can leaders show up as it relates to equity and set a culture of vulnerability and inclusion?

As we’re home and trying to figure this work out, it would be great for leaders to start with their gratitude. I’m grateful for great healthcare, that I can work at home, and that I can talk to you through the internet and computer. If I take that gratitude and then unpack it and say who doesn’t have these things? Who can’t work from home? Who doesn’t have access to the internet? Who doesn’t have great healthcare? And then say what is my role in helping in that as a leader? Let’s talk about the internet. I have the internet and I know other people don’t. One thing I can do practically is send information about how you can get access to free internet. I’m on a board and lending them our account so they can continue to conduct meetings. One practical thing you can do in terms of equity — the easy thing right now — work from a place of gratitude, figure out the things that you have and who doesn’t have that. In your business and personal goals, what are the one or two things you can start to tackle? 

Well, it is hard to sum up such a full conversation but the three lessons I have learned talking with you, C. Marie:

  • To start and lead with gratitude
  • To be willing to face what you don’t know and do something about it
  • To use this pause as a place from which to grow

I really appreciated our time together, and the practicality of your insights- especially in this moment of time.  Thanks for all you do, C. Marie.

Thank you, that was an excellent summary!

For additional resources visit: The Meyer Foundation, The Kellogg Foundation, Mission Partners, Leadership Montgomery

By Elena Hilton

One of my favorite movies of the past few years is Arrival, which stars Amy Adams as a linguistics professor who’s recruited to figure out how to communicate with aliens that have landed on Earth. I’m not one for sci-fi stories, but as a writer, I love how the movie centers on the role that language and communication play in expressing who we are, how we think, and how we view the world. Words are more than just letters strung together. They shape our ideas, how we process information, and how we form judgments. And they are among the most powerful tools we have.

During my first month at Mission Partners, I took part in Mission Forward’s Race and Identity Training. I learned so much valuable information during that one-day session, but the activities around equitable and inclusive language stood out to me most. Prior to the training, I thought I had the tools to incorporate equity into my work, but it’s less about knowing everything, and more about continuing to learn and question the systems as I know them. In the workshop, we addressed our own identities, where we hold power and privilege, and where we are often pushed to the margins. My identity as a white woman in the United States allows me certain unearned privileges because of my race, while my gender means I must navigate the effects of sexist cultural values and policies. 

To that end, I wanted to share some tips I took away from our Race and Identity training, and continue to use in my day-to-day work at Mission Partners. Hopefully they will spark some a-ha moments for you, too:

  • Labels don’t apply to everyone.

Our brains are constantly searching for ways to categorize information through labeling, but certain words and phrases that might be embraced by some, could be shunned by others. When thinking about how to describe individuals and communities, it’s important to remember there are no “one-size-fits-all” labels. As a white woman, the most important thing I can do is ask, listen, and research, because my identity means there are many community experiences I don’t know firsthand. When discussing communities, I make a concerted effort to determine how those communities refer to themselves. When discussing individuals within communities, I’ve found the best course of action is to ask what terms they’re comfortable with, listen, and adapt to people’s preferences.

  • Think twice about the word “empower.”

“Empower” seems like a bold, positive word, doesn’t it? I definitely thought so, but during Mission Forward’s Race and Identity training, I learned to think about it from a different perspective. When we say an organization or a movement is empowering people, what we’re really saying is that those individuals don’t have power or agency on their own and require help from outside forces. Of course, that’s not true. Instead of using the word empower, consider using “support,” “offering tools,” or “working together to achieve a goal.”

  • Say what you mean.

Racially-coded language is embedded in so much of our day-to-day communications, you might not even realize how certain words have contributed to bias and discrimination. When writing, take a step back and think about what your words imply, paying careful attention to common phrases. One of the most commonly used terms when talking about young people who live in under-resourced communities is “at-risk.” Ask yourself, at-risk of what? Living in a certain area doesn’t make you a risk. A young person living in an under-resourced community shouldn’t feel like they are to blame for the institutionalized barriers impacting their life. 

Don’t be afraid to call out systems of oppression. A word that gets avoided a lot is racism, especially in reference to statements made by people in positions of power. If something is racist, say it’s racist. Don’t say it’s “racially charged” or “inappropriate.” In fact, many news outlets, such as NPR, have explained their decision to label some of President Trump’s tweets racist. By explicitly calling out racist tropes, NPR listeners who weren’t familiar with the history of the phrase “go back where you came from” had an opportunity to learn. So, let’s call racism what it is so we can work to address it by offering solutions on how we can move towards combating it.

If you, like me, are always searching for ways to make your communications materials more thoughtful and inclusive, I’d encourage you to check out this resource that’s been enlightening for me: SumOfUs.org’s Progressive Style Guide.

  • When in doubt, use statistics.

Data is your friendwhen used correctly. Words alone pose a challenge in crafting a complete, accurate narrative. “Aggregating” data by lumping groups together usually is not the right course of action, as it can erase identities. For instance, think twice before saying you have statistics on “Hispanic women.” Categories like this are typically far too overarching and likely can’t fully depict the individual cultures and backgrounds that fall within them. Disaggregated data ensures that people in communities are not viewed as a monolith. 

To offer some ideas, data points and research could be used to dispel the myth that the racial wealth gap is the result of individual actions. Or you could use data to show how racism causes higher Black maternal mortality rates and many other health-related problems. Just keep in mind that research, like language, can hold biases based on how its compiled, so do your due diligence to ensure the statistics and data at hand aren’t worsening or ignoring existing disparities. 

  •  Use people-first language.

The simple way you place a word to either be an adjective or a noun can make all the difference in how your audience thinks about the person you’re describing. Instead of saying “homeless person,” reframe your syntax to say a person experiencing homelessness. Instead of “foster child,” say child in foster care. People are so much more than their situations and environments. 

  • Continue learning.

What I am learning here at Mission Partners is using equitable and inclusive language doesn’t happen without effort. It requires an intentional commitment to continually learning about intersectionality and applying that knowledge on a daily basis. Above all else, know that communication has the power to shape our thinking and our culture at large. When you mindfully choose inclusive and equitable language, you’re helping to encourage a more inclusive and equitable world. 

Interested in learning more about how you can bring equity and inclusion to the forefront of your work? Reach out to us for a cup of coffee, or join us at Mission Forward’s next Race and Identity Training on December 11. 

Two people of different races and genders sitting in front of their laptops

By Becky George

It has long been known that there are quite a few gaps to fill in the arena of diversity, equity and inclusion. Often, well-intentioned organizations try to tackle this work in some capacity but, in reality, may not have the resources or people-power to make it as effective as possible.  

At Mission Partners, we have committed to boldly speaking equity and working towards a more just world. We lead with racial equity and steer away from diversity-only conversations. Internally, we model how one might address this in their own workplace and want to share learnings and pitfalls. We have years of experience helping organizations develop their own equity action plans to meet and exceed their goals on diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Our Mission Forward® Race + Identity workshop is an important first step that provides guidance on effective practices and the latest language around diversity, equity and inclusion. Our two-pronged approach addresses both institutionalized racism and oppression as well as the interpersonal racism and oppression. We understand the importance of recognizing how these two levels of oppression cannot be solved without addressing the other. Unfortunately, we have seen this happen repeatedly which prevents progress from occurring. 

Here are some of the ways we’ve seen organizations miss the mark on equity work: 

  1. Hiring a “Diversity Officer” – Without full buy-in from all of senior leadership, staff members who are hired for this type of position may not be set up for success. Goals and deliverables set for this person will likely not be met due to an organization’s competing priorities.
  2. Letting work crises push equity work off the table – In times of crisis, it is easy to let things fall by the wayside to focus on what must happen to end the crisis. However, if equity-based work is not at the center of crisis strategy then the communities who need the support most will likely not be prioritized well.  
  3.  Relying on people of color to own all the “diversity” work – Although it is important for people of color to be key stakeholders and leaders in the work, it is a pitfall when they are the only stakeholders in the work. It is the duty of everyone within the organization to take ownership of the work to move into progress. 
  4. Continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done – If organizations do not take the time to examine their policies, practices and procedures, they risk replication of ongoing inequitable standards. 

The concept at the center of our Race + Identity workshops is to build a culture of empathy as well as develop shared language on racism. We use the time to brainstorm and learn what has and has not worked within organizations to create the next steps on how to implement more actionable equity plans in the workplace. 

| At Mission Forward®, we create transformational trainings that model what is possible in the world. We believe that the future will be inclusive and just. 

Each month, we bring together six thoughtful participants who are ready to tackle racial equity in their workplace and give them practical tools to do the work. As with all of our other workshops, we take a person-first approach in centering equity and justice. Soon, we will be debuting our executive-level Race + Identity workshop for C-Suite leaders and other senior leadership members. Contact us at connect@mission.partners to hear more. 

Our workshops are adaptable and relevant. No matter the industry or the discipline, whether you work on issues of healthcare or housing, to authentically center equity, there must be a willingness to talk about race and center anti-racism in all of our work.

To learn more about Mission Partners’ upcoming Race + Identity Workshops, and to reserve your seat, visit MissionForward.us

By Carrie Fox

Above my youngest daughter’s bed hangs a framed sign that reads “Be Brave”.

My husband and I were intentional in hanging that sign, and we remain focused on instilling its message in our children: to stand up for what is right, to speak up when something feels wrong, and to use their voices and actions for good in this world.

But on this third Monday in January—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—when the complexity of their young questions is mounting— about the world we live in, about the actions of those in power, and about the federal workers, small businesses owners and families hurting in this government shutdown— those two words “Be Brave” are far easier to speak than they can be to live.

This weekend’s protests at the Lincoln Memorial—including a now viral incident of young people hooting, hollering and mocking a Native American activist and Vietnam veteran—reinforce my sense of urgency as a parent, a business owner, a board member, a Girl Scout troop leader, and a white woman of privilege. I must be willing to do the hard work: to acknowledge and leverage my power, to bold speak when I witness injustice, and to own when I have allowed an injustice to occur if I am to raise racially-conscious, brave and bold girls. Professionally, I must expect just as much from myself if I am to build a racially-conscious business.

“Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.” 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Frankly, it’s hard to know if I have the tools that this requires. And it’s hard to know how best to translate the same lessons I’m working to instill in my daughters to our work at Mission Partners. But I know one thing for sure: we learn to be brave by watching. We learn by what we see, and what we don’t see.

Remaining silent on issues of race and injustice at home or at work is the worst we can do. And so, just as we intentionally hung that sign above our daughter’s bed, and just as we’ll intentionally mark Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life this weekend in service, there are a few other intentional changes we’re making at Mission Partners this year that I hope will inspire other brave actions, as well.

  1. We’re strengthening our skills in bringing Race to the table. Last year, Mission Partners committed publicly to advance issues of equity in our work, but this year, we’re naming it. We started this year with a frank conversation on the themes in Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, and we recently invested in Race and Identity training for all full-time employees. We hired Becky George, as our full time Director of Community Engagement, who will bring these same skills to our clients and network. And every Tuesday from here on out, we’ll feature a story on our weekly newsletter that sheds new light and understanding on issues of race in the workplace. Our personal commitment to addressing individual, interpersonal, institutional and structural racism will be a theme for this entire year and will extend into everything we do as a team.
  1. We’re creating new platforms to bold speak. Mission Partners last week hosted the first meeting of our Loyola University Social Impact Fellows, with 12 brave students who will journey this year together, identifying injustices around them, building the muscles to bravely explore solutions, and boldly speaking out for change. This group of undergraduate students across disciplines will work together over the course of the next 10 months to advance issues of social justice in communities where we live, learn, and work. If and when we don’t feel we have the tools, we will build them, together.
  1. We’re prepared to challenge injustices when we hear and see them. Throughout this year, Mission Partners will place a continued focus on questioning, challenging, and boldly speaking up about the systems around us. We will use every communications skill we have to advocate for social change and systems change in our communities. We’ll challenge clients when we hear words that reinforce negative stereotypes, and we’ll speak up when we see actions that reinforce racism, because we know, just as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.”

This is a moment in time to be brave and to bold speak, but it certainly won’t end at the close of this new year.  At Mission Partners, our way of working with one another and with our clients is steeped inside understanding, learning and applying a racial equity lens to all that we do- this year and every year moving forward.

If we’re lucky, our Congress will choose to be brave this year, too. But while we wait for necessary signs of progress there, it’s time right now to get to work here—to use the tools we have to bravely act and boldly speak in the name of justice.  Our kids and our future deserve no less.