My Personal Journey to Understanding Racial Equity.
By Laurie George, Ph.D., CEO of United Way of Palm Beach County
Recently, my 14- year-old daughter, Allie, and I were driving and saw the sky open up to a huge downpour. I said under my breath, “that’s going to be tough for the protesters today.” She said, “It’s okay, they will keep marching because they are standing up for what they believe in.” Then she turned to me and asked “Mom, what are YOU doing to help with Black Lives Matter?”
What a powerful question and I did my best to explain, but I fumbled with my words. I felt I needed to write my personal journey and put in writing what I am going to do.
My first memory of race riots was in Madison, Wisconsin in the early 1970s – I was only 4 years old, but it made an imprint on my soul. My mother, sister and I attended a civil rights rally – suddenly there was a commotion and people started running. The crowd was being dispersed with tear gas. We ran to the car as bullets were flying through the air. I was scared and didn’t understand what happened until I was older. This same scenario is playing out over and over again in 2020 across our country in response to the continued racial and social injustice to men and women like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor- as it has for hundreds of years in the United States.
I find myself, a white, middle-aged, educated woman in a community leadership position as CEO of United Way Palm Beach County. I must use my platform to have the difficult conversations with our community leaders to find solutions that eradicate these injustices against our Black neighbors. I must denounce all forms of racism – including structural and institutional racism – always.
This past year I had the opportunity to serve on the National Equity Advisory Committee with United Way Worldwide along with 40 other leaders in social justice. After many authentic, emotional, raw conversations with a diverse group, we crafted “Strengthening our equity muscle to accelerate impact: The United Way Equity Framework.” to serve as a guiding light. The core principles include the following:
Locally, UWPBC is committed to creating a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout our sphere of influence, including the Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, affinity groups, partner agencies, and donors. This strategy will enhance our ability to achieve our Mission and Vision:
Our initial steps are to:
While this is just the beginning, my hope is that my daughter will recognize that I care deeply and that everyone acknowledges Black Lives Matter. United Way and I are here to work with our friends, colleagues, and neighbors in Black communities.
We see you. We stand with you.
With all my heart,