An Open Letter to the Community on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Over the past months we have witnessed how a global pandemic has tested our resilience and redefined personal connection among loved ones and our communities. The events we are living through today are challenging, confusing, and frightening, especially for our Native American, Black, Latinx, and LBGTQ+ neighbors who bear the disproportionate brunt of COVID-19.
However, the murders of countless members of the Black community at the hands of the police, reveal an equally life-threatening virus that places race and racism deeply embedded within the fabric of our nation, its institutions, and even our local community. Hence the board and staff of the Williamstown Community Chest acknowledge the historical injustices of systemic racism, and that we have not always included or listened to the voices that raise and describe these experiences. We stand in solidarity and believe that Black Lives Matter, knowing that this time is different as we commit to seek out diverse points of view then, listen, learn, educate, and act.
The BLM mission states, in part, “Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities.” This stated mission aligns with the 93 year old WCC mission to “strengthen community by mobilizing resources for organizations that assist our neighbors in need.” We are called today to strengthen our community by mobilizing resources to assist our Black neighbors in need by centering their voices.
To that end, the board of directors has begun in earnest to examine its own biases and to learn how to actively support people whose lives are endangered by the daily brutality of racism. Going forward, we will listen and learn so that we can understand how the WCC can best promote and practice our values during these challenging times.
Our goal in the short term is to assess and align our actions, policies, and practices with our commitment to dismantle systematic racism. We will pursue this by:
- seeking guidance from fairly compensated experts on a range of issues including advice on diversifying our own membership through recruitment and retention best practices
- examining our allocations and grant-making protocols by asking specific questions of our member agencies about their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion
- collaborating with local organizations that are addressing these issues
- adding diversity, equity, and inclusion to our monthly board meeting agenda
- sharing our specific efforts and progress via our website and our annual report to the community
As we move forward, we invite you to consider the challenge presented by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering racial injustice for The New York Times and creator of the landmark 1619Project. Ms. Hannah-Jones asked in her article “What is Owed?” in the June 24 edition of The NY Times Magazine, “We are left with a choice…will this moment only feel different or will it actually be different?”
To wit, we, the board and staff of the Williamstown Community Chest, hereby choose and commit to making this moment actually different. We will continue to dream but we will intentionally and fervently embrace diversity, equity and inclusion as the essential, most effective way to strengthen our community for all.
We begin today with conversations about “what” and “how” and we welcome your advice, support and participation by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (413) 458-2443.
Adopted by the Board of Directors on: July 13, 2020