19 Jan Learning as We Go
At Healthy Communities Foundation, we often say that our work is not just about who or what we fund. What also matters is how we do our work. For us, that means leaning into our values and recognizing how we can nourish and sustain the people who are at the heart of our communities. Sometimes that means taking a step back from the “day-to-day“ to learn from one another, which is fundamental for anyone working to advance racial equity and racial justice.
This work requires a willingness to look closely at how things have been and reimagine how they could be. It takes courage, active learning and unlearning, action, and accountability. We can’t “workshop” racial injustice away, nor easily tick things off a DEI checklist and call it a day.
We do, however, recognize the power in sharing stories and wanted to revisit a tiny space we carved out for reflection in the midst of the pandemic.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN, UNLEARN & REIMAGINE
As the summer of racial tensions peaked with the waves of social uprisings in 2020, we invited all of our grantee partners to participate in the Facing Race conference presented by Race Forward. The Facing Race conference is one of the largest multiracial, intergenerational gatherings of organizers, educators, culture keepers, and other leaders who seek a just, democratic society in which BILPOC communities thrive with power and purpose.
We sponsored participation as part of our emerging strategy to support our grantee partners’ capacity in collective and contextual ways. We know that racial equity is as much an outcome as it is a process. We know we need to take an honest look at our individual and collective understanding of the structures that exist to benefit some and burden others, regardless of whether we are aware of it or not. Therefore, we recognized that attending one conference was not an end-all-be-all, but saw it as an opportunity to resource local health leaders with racial equity and racial justice training and perhaps catalyze change within ourselves, our organizations, and our communities.
Here are some quick stats about our grantee partners who participated in the virtual conference:
- Ninety-six local health leaders representing 42 organizations in our service region attended
- The majority of participants (79%) identified as Black, Indigenous, Latinx, People of Color (BILPOC)
- More than half (56%) represented direct service or management roles
- Nearly 40% of them had never had access to comprehensive racial equity training like this before
Our hope was to understand who was doing their own equity work (and how) and see what might blossom when people come together and share ideas on what is possible within organizations and across our service region. This could then prime our local health ecosystems further to advance racial equity on a hyper-local level.
REFLECTING & TAKING ACTION: ONE YEAR LATER
We recently asked a few of our partners who participated in the conference and post-conference reflection circle hosted by the Foundation to share some insights about their organization’s racial equity journey. In some ways, a year later, so much hasn’t changed–COVID cases are again spiking, hard-hit communities are again facing tremendous pivots and unknowns.
Yet, one thing that remains consistent across so many of our partners is their relentless commitment to lead through crisis and draw in community’s incredible strength and resilience.
I invite you to read more about Esperanza Health Center’s VP of Strategy and Business Development Heidi Ortolaza-Alvear’s thoughtful insights about how they have led through grief, hope, and healing. You can also read the reflections of YogaCare’s Executive Director Greg Von Hyfte and Board Member and Co-Leader of the Socially Engaged Yoga Network Yoli Maya Yeh on their personal and organizational transformations at both organizations. Through their leadership and willingness to share their journeys, they remind us that our work is interconnected and there is so much more we can do and learn about–together.