An update on our equity statement
In August 2020, we shared an organizational equity statement naming our failures to center equity in the past and outlining a path toward infusing anti-racism into every aspect of our work. Within that statement, we named that “this type of deep organizational transformation will take us a long time, and we’re prepared to do this work for years to come” and further that “living out anti-racism as an organization will not simply entail checking off items on a list and announcing we are done, that we have arrived.”
With that in mind, we recognize that a one-off statement is not good enough. We are accountable to Black and Brown communities who are most harmed when we fail to move forward on our anti-racism goals, which means our process of centering equity cannot be opaque. Transparency—including regular updates on our progress—is one of the ways we can allow for that accountability and begin to build greater trust. After all, a statement expressing our intentions is empty if it amounts to nothing. Our actions determine our impact, so genuine anti-racism work doesn’t exist without follow-through.
To make our progress and failures as clear as possible, we’ve broken out each action item we named in our initial statement into a separate, collapsible section. Our intent isn’t to just check off boxes and be done, but to hold ourselves accountable to continuously doing the work we see as necessary to making progress. To be clear, while we have taken some steps in the right direction, there are still many areas we have yet to make progress on. Part of the process for reporting out this update includes reflecting on our ongoing shortcomings, recognizing ways in which we failed to move as quickly as possible, understanding why we failed, and re-committing to not make the same mistakes.
Click on the buttons below to read about our progress and shortcomings with each of the anti-racism commitments we made last year.
We brought on a consultant, Weav Studio to lead our strategic planning work which will help us develop an anti-racism strategic plan that we can lean on in the next 3-5 years to guide our organization through our goals, weaving equity at the center. We specifically chose Weav because of their experience in anti-racism and commitment to abolition as praxis, which was a top criterion in our hiring process.
We are also in the early phase of a youth agenda listening tour, where we will hear from young people across Colorado about the issues that impact them most. One of the goals of this project is to center the voices and lived experiences of young people, prioritizing the voices of young people of color, and ensure that the work we do going forward is deeply informed and influenced by these experiences. Our listening tour takes an empathetic, youth-driven approach to shaping our organizational priorities, putting our communities at the center of everything we do. This project will run in conjunction with our strategic planning process and will be used to inform that process.
As we continue with our strategic planning, we want to make sure we keep our communities informed of our progress, so we will be sharing more regular updates on that work.
We have incorporated a commitment to anti-racism work into all of our hiring processes, and added questions specific to diversity, equity, and inclusion to our interviews; however, this is an area we recognize still needs major work. Some of the next steps we have identified are establishing better recruitment strategies that don’t rely on our staff’s networks (which are majority white), continuing to strengthen our interviews with explicit questions around anti-racism, and making sure all role descriptions are clear about our expectations for employee’s commitment to anti-racism.
We added three new members to our board in the fall of 2020, all of whom are deeply committed to our anti-racism work. Our executive committee, our chairs and vice chairs on both our C3 and C4, is now made up of 75% Women of Color.
There is still more work to be done in bringing our board along in our equity and anti-racism goals. We are working with Board chairs to develop a Board training around equity. The Board and staff also commit to building stronger relationships of trust with one another so that we can productively work together during strategic planning and our anti-racism work.
We have made several changes to engage all staff in diversity, equity, and inclusion learning and implementation. We have two identity-based caucusing spaces—one for People of Color on staff and one for white folks. Separating these caucuses by identity allows People of Color on staff to discuss challenges they’ve faced without fear of repercussions and allows white folks to discuss steps to become anti-racist without putting more labor on People of Color. Starting in December 2020, our white caucus began taking steps to increase our accountability to the PoC caucus, including a focus on each member creating individual anti-racism action plans. Those action plans are reviewed by our internal equity committee and accessible to all staff of color.
All white staff members are also paired up with accountability groups to help support each other in making sure they follow through on their action plans and discuss challenges they’ve faced. These groups meet two times a month.
Additionally, all 2021 department goals are reviewed by our internal equity committee, with the specific lens of making sure they include equity as a core tenant of each goal.
While all of these changes have increased the expectation that white base staff grow their understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion and incorporate that learning into their work, we still have significant strides to make in making sure seasonal staff have the same opportunities. Developing a seasonal staff anti-racism plan is a priority for this year.
All non-Black base staff at New Era are required to attend Soul2Soul Sister’s Facing Racism program—this training specifically focuses on anti-Black racism which is why we opened the experience to all non-Black staff members. In addition, all base and seasonal staff attend at least one training on anti-Black racism with Regan Byrd, which this year will be happening within our identity caucuses and will contain curriculum oriented towards the needs and desires of each caucus.
Our internal equity committee, Fighting for Racial Equity and Empowerment (FREE), continues to be an important driver of our equity work alongside our Executive Director and staff. In addition, the FREE committee has begun to more clearly identify its purpose within the organization moving forward and outlined all projects that it has a role in supporting.
One failure in our goal to receive and implement feedback was in our Truth and Reconciliation process, which received very low engagement. We’re now working on identifying ways to make it more accessible for our alumni to give feedback and recommendations. One of the ways that we hope to receive feedback and recommendations from alumni, partners, and the broader community is through the Youth Agenda Listening Tour, as mentioned above.
We no longer have an unpaid internship, so all hired positions at New Era are paid. We’re also investing more work into our volunteer program as an opportunity for individuals to engage with our work in an accessible way.
We will revamp our leadership development program as part of our strategic planning process this year, aiming to create and implement a new program. In this restructuring, we will work to ensure that our leadership development program is supportive, empowering, and prioritizes the development of young people of color.
Our strategic planning process will prioritize looking at what issues we engage on, with a specific eye to issues that disproportionately impact Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color.
Currently, we’re working in the legislative session to pass private student debt protections—an issue that disproportionately impacts Black communities. We are also supporting our partners at COLOR and Elephant Circle in passing reproductive justice legislation.
Every department at New Era created an equity blueprint to shape their direction and identify core areas of need. These department blueprints were then used to shape 2021 department goals.
As of August 2020, all New Era role descriptions include salary bands and these pay ranges were set based on competitive rates.
This year, we have already held a healing space as an offering for people of color on staff led by Angell Perez. We plan to create more spaces throughout the year.
At the same time that we have been making these changes, white supremacy has continued to rear its ugly head, reminding us exactly why every white-led organization like ours—as well as every white person who believes in liberation—needs to make a personal commitment to anti-racism.
The January 6th insurrection at the U.S. capitol showed us the violent extremes to which white supremacists will go in order to preserve their power. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including the shooting of eight people including six women of Asian descent in Georgia. This violence is in part due to racist language used by political leaders. Police violence against Black communities has continued unchecked, most recently the murders of Daunte Wright, Ma’khia Bryant, and Andrew Brown Jr., and justice is almost never served, including right here in Colorado with the murder of Elijah McClain and blatant coverup by the Aurora PD. And even when a guilty verdict is reached, as in the case of Derek Chauvin, it does nothing to bring back the lives lost or prevent the system of violence from continuing. While it seems easy to separate ourselves from the perpetrators of these crimes, the reality is this entire system depends on the inaction and indifference of the vast majority of white America.
Over this same period, within our work we’ve struggled to dismantle aspects of white supremacy that show up in work culture: Building greater trust among staff, strengthening our ability to navigate conflict, seeking honest input and feedback from all employees, and ending perfectionism.
Moving forward, we will provide more regular updates on our work to become anti-racist. You can expect to hear a full update from us at least twice a year, but we also encourage you to reach out if you have questions about any specific piece of this work.