By Brenda B. Asare, President and CEO, The Alford Group
How long can you hold your breath without passing out? A man with strong willpower can hold his breath for two to three minutes. You don’t need me to tell you what happens after eight minutes and 46 seconds of someone holding his knee on your neck.
As people across the world decry the dehumanizing death of George Floyd, it is not lost on me that African Americans have been holding their breath for over 400 years.
As I reflect on this event, I ask myself, “what is different this time?” after having witnessed so many such events in the past. Maybe what is different is the seemingly perfect storm of a worldwide pandemic whose disproportionate health and economic effects upon people of color has laid bare the staggering impact of accumulated systemic oppression, being amplified in the senseless deaths of African Americans.
As an African American woman at the helm of The Alford Group, I am now more than ever committed to accelerating our clients’ success in dismantling systems of disrespect, omission and oppression in our sector and in society.
Perhaps it is the reality of not being able to fully trust the air we breathe or the people we encounter every day as we all don masks during this crisis. Right now, many of us are taking things day by day. And it is clear many are struggling like never before. The impact of working amidst widespread social injustice and unrest, a pandemic and – more often than not – working in isolation is proving quite severe.
For 40 years, The Alford Group has embodied core values of inclusion and respect for persons of diverse backgrounds and perspectives in meeting the unique needs of every organization with which we are entrusted the privilege of partnership. As an African American woman at the helm of The Alford Group, I am now more than ever committed to accelerating along with my colleagues our clients’ success in dismantling systems of disrespect, omission and oppression in our sector and in society.
The Alford Group has partnered with thousands of organizations that have long been on the front lines of uplifting communities of color and being springboards to racial equity, economic empowerment, community and family stability, and human rights advocacy.
Values give you the courage to recognize and address the context of how you govern your organization. How fundraising is conducted. To call out bias and “isms.” To be an upstander, not a bystander.
As the sponsor for 20 years of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ diversity art showcase and annual international diversity forums, we are committed to advancing the development of fundraising professionals with diverse backgrounds who will bring the kind of lens, voice and intentionality needed to increase engagement of diverse donors, leaders and community partners.
To do the work that we must do compels us to look not only at organizational values, it requires us to look at what we value as individuals.
Values give you the courage to recognize and address the context of how you govern your organization. How fundraising is conducted. Whose voices are included and heard. How resources are aligned. To call out bias and “isms.” To understand duality in the work of your organization and the work needing to be done within your organization. To be an upstander, not a bystander.
The time is now for all of us to be courageous in disrupting and dismantling oppressive practices that stymie opportunities for growth, success and sustainable change. Yes, it will be hard work. It is work that means the difference between life and death.
We all must do better, one step at a time, together.
A Call to Action
We look forward to partnering with you on this journey to create real, lasting change. In the spirit of being in this work together, The Alford Group has compiled resources that can guide your organization forward in creating a sustainable culture of equity and inclusion.
* Assess Implicit Bias
Take the Harvard Implicit Association Test. Start by assessing your implicit bias. Test measures, attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling to admit or did not believe existed.
A leading resource on board development, BoardSource has curated some of the best thinking and practical advice on diversity, inclusion and equity.
* Seek to Understand Equity vs Diversity and Inclusion
The YWCA Evanston/Northshore promotes racial and gender equity at the individual, interpersonal, corporate and institutional levels through training, workshops and community engagement. Register for the Virtual Equity Summit on June 25 and 26. Featured speakers include New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie, WBEZ Reporter Natalie Moore, and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University Dr. Evelynn Hammonds.
* Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Racial Equity Lens
Going beyond trending terminology, this research-based report outlines distinct stages of organizational awareness, identifies levers for building momentum in moving from a white dominant to a race equity culture, and a road map for how to get started.
* Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Spectrum
This Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Spectrum Tool helps an organization assess where it is on its DEI journey and identifies potential areas for future work.
* Race Forward
The Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) examines how racial and ethnic groups can be affected by a proposed action or decision and can proactively minimize unanticipated adverse consequences.
* Racial Equity Tools
Racial Equity Tools offers curricula and tools to increase understanding of racial equity and help those working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities and our culture at large.
* TED Talk: How to Overcome our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them
In this video, author and diversity advocate Verna Myers speaks on subconscious attitudes and makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases, and move toward rather than away from the groups that make you uncomfortable.
* Being Antiracist
The National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian’s newly launched portal on Talking About Race includes a toolkit for taking action to end racial inequities in our daily lives. It outlines how we all have a role to play, how being antiracist is different for white people than for people of color, that all racial groups struggle under white supremacy, and for everyone it is an ongoing practice and process. Check out an excerpt from the Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing by Anneliese A. Singh, PhD, LPC.