Excerpts taken from the Winter 2021 edition of the Racial Equity & Justice Committee Quarterly Newsletter “Lift Every Voice”
Welcome to the Racial Equity and Justice Committee
In the wake of the tragic shooting of George Floyd and marches across the nation demanding justice and accountability, Uplift Family Services looked inward to see what it could be doing to make a difference. Regional and agencywide Racial Equity and Justice (REJ) committees were formed to inspire change, inform decisions, and address racial equity and accountability within our agency, through our services, and in our communities.
Composed of voices from across the state and a diversity of roles throughout Uplift Family Services, the agencywide REJ Committee aims to set and advance our agency’s racial equity and justice agenda.
Since June 2020, our REJ Committee has met bi-weekly to focus on three key goals:
- Hiring the agency’s first Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI)
- Administering the agency’s first Racial Equity & Justice (REJ) employee survey and focus groups
- Developing and presenting REJ-specific policy and practices recommendations to the agency’s Executive Leadership Team, which is comprised of all C-level executives, as well as those at the vice president and executive director level.
As the year draws to a close, we are pleased to share that the committee has achieved two of its three key goals. We have hired Dr. Angelica Cortez, our first VP of JEDI and have wrapped up the efforts of our first REJ survey.
Take a moment to learn about Dr. Cortez in her own words:
In the coming months, the agencywide REJ Committee will share the REJ survey results and related organizational action plan with all staff. The organizational action plan will be grouped into five major themes and will outline our concrete action steps to bring visible changes to the agency:
- Administration & Operations
- Direct Clinical Services
- Human Resources
- Training & Dialogue
- Public Policy
We will work to ensure that the changes around our racial equity and justice efforts are felt by all of you.
A REJ Spotlight: LA Regional Director Amy Ley Sanchez’s Vision
To kick off this series, which will highlight Racial Equity & Justice leaders at Uplift Family Services, we asked Amy the following:
“How would you like Uplift Family Services to activate and realize its racial equity and justice goals?”
I envision our agency and its amazing workforce will step out of the careful and safe zone and take more risks in the racial equity and justice space. REJ is new for many organizations, schools, parishes, and neighborhoods.
A path for learning comes with embracing that we will make mistakes and things will get uncomfortable. At Uplift Family Services, I have experienced a sophisticated and advanced system with members who strive for excellence and perform at high levels. It may be hard for our finely tuned systems to tolerate disappointment or missteps. In my previous roles at other organizations, I faced disappointment and had to own miscalculations in the REJ space. These humbling experiences helped me remember that no number of years in nonprofit management or in direct service of behavioral health automatically qualifies me as a woman of color to be an expert. In Robin DiAngelo’s book, “White Fragility,” she speaks of how REJ instantaneously sparks emotions in all of us and that racial stress creates intolerable feelings for many of us.
To this experience, I call us all to the table for the conversation and for individuals with influence to open the space for this discussion and role model thoughtful risk taking. The risk taking will yield so many rich outcomes in learning, deeper allyship, and connection. Even when it feels uncomfortable.
Read more here about Amy, her background, and her new role as Regional Executive Director of Los Angeles.
A Town Hall for Supporting Afghan Refugees
On October 29, the Racial Equity and Justice Committee hosted a virtual Town Hall focused on supporting our Afghan refugee community members. “Building Bridges: Understanding the Trauma, Mental and Physical Health Concerns, and the Social Support Needs of Afghan Refugees” provided an opportunity for personal storytelling, advocacy, and learning about local and state resettlement and relief efforts and to increase our collective understanding of the trauma refugees experience.
You can re-watch a recording of the town hall here: