This post originally appeared on October 6, 2016, on the Community Foundation of Lorain County website.
We’ve been focusing much of our attention at the Community Foundation on diversity, inclusion and equity. We serve a community that is vastly different from when we were created in 1980. We know the community will continue to change in the coming years and decades; if the Community Foundation is to remain vital and viable, we need to evolve with it. But beyond this noble rationale, the need for greater diversity, inclusion and equity is visible each and every day. There are no fast and easy answers, but inaction is definitely not an option.
I recently attended a training workshop sponsored by the Racial Equity Institute (REI) and I was struck by the following analogy. If I saw a couple of fish dead in a lake, I’d probably assume that the fish were diseased or injured. If one-half of the fish in a lake were floating on the surface, I’d wonder what was in the lake causing the problem. But if one-half of the fish in all the lakes were belly up, I’d begin testing the groundwater (and I certainly wouldn’t drink any).
The workshop focused on racial disparities in education, healthcare, income and employment, criminal justice, and childcare systems. The data was pretty startling but I continue to believe that we can change our groundwater in ways that benefit our entire community.
Beth Zemsky, one of the consultants assisting with our Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity initiative uses examples like Universal Design, an architectural framework to build systems for those with the least access so that everyone benefits, have been adapted to education and institutional client flow systems. Her point is that we have tools to build better community, but without intentional diversity, authentic inclusion, and a strong focus on equity, even the best tools leave someone out.
We are proud to be the recipient of the Michael G. Shinn Award for our efforts in diversity, inclusion and equity and we’re hopeful for our grants to improve community relations at our police departments through targeted recruitment, but to really make a difference we need to work to improve our groundwater. Grant dollars alone can’t fix it; it has to start with us as people -- us.
I, like many at the Foundation, have made personal commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity, and we welcome anyone who wants to walk this journey with us, together.