All In’s Shared Vision for Racial Equity Includes Understanding, Acknowledging & Creating Inclusive Spaces

By: Miriam Castro, Program Manager, Data Across Sectors for Health and Susan Martinez, MUP, Program Associate, Data Across Sectors for Health

On October 22, 2020, All In: Data for Community Health hosted a webinar training, All In for a Shared Racial Equity Vision, led by Shavon Arline-Bradley, Founding Principal of R.E.A.C.H Beyond Solutions, LLC. Her training helped participants define what the All In community means when it talks about racial equity. Through this training, participants learned how racial equity and inclusion show up in multi-sector community collaboration and data sharing work; understood what racial equity is; and felt more confident to take the next step and act in their professional capacities to address racial equity

Watch the webinar recording of All In for a Shared Racial Equity Vision and download the handout here.

A shared vision starts with understanding our shared language and what we mean. As such, the training started with a level setting activity. Shavon opened with a set of images: the COVID-19 virus, the Zoom logo, the photo of George Floyd’s final moments on earth, an image of protests, and finally an image of the 2020 election. Her prompts brought a mix of reactions from the 154 participants who attended. Reactions ranged from outrage to pain to hope. 

“Our personal reactions stem from our understanding that the influence of society is reflective in our work and in the capacities in which we serve,” Arline-Bradley said. “Individuals bring their biases, perspectives, and worldviews to the table and it affects the way that we implement and engage in public health.” 

This simple but powerful concept and the following definitions guided the training:

Determinant A label/element has been placed on individuals by society and aligns with how someone is going to thrive. For instance, race has been a core determinant of an individual’s value in our country, as has class, a person’s access to finance, and their gender, be it identity or orientation. In America, this has shaped the policies and practices around how an individual is determined. If a person is not valued within their society, it will directly impact a person’s ability to thrive.
Race A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics. Used to define dominance and access.
Racism Institutional and individual practices creating and reinforcing oppressive systems of race relations. Whereby people and institutions engage in discrimination adversely restrict, by judgment and action, the lives of those against whom they discriminate. Racism is a harmful determinant of health by the system that has instituted racism has a major impact on the lived experience.
Lived experience How a person is treated, set against standards (imposed by someone else) and affects the jobs that are available to a person and environmental exposures, etc; based on a determinant (such as race)
Anti-Racism The process of identifying, challenging, and eliminating the values, policies, and behaviors within the interlocking systems of social oppression (sexism, classism, heterosexualism, ableism) to redistribute power and transform racial disparity outcomes. That is so the factors are no longer a predictor of success or failure for People of Color at the structural level. 
Anti-Racism in practice An operationalization of pushing policies and practices to redistribute power and to transform disparate outcomes. Race is no longer a factor.
Equality Equal distribution of resources
Equity Providing all people with fair opportunities to attain their full potential to the extent possible, including the presence of policies and practices to provide everyone with the support they need to improve the quality of their lives. Who defines full potential? Who defines this optimal experience? The intent for equity is around fairness, free from injustice, or free from systemic barriers. 
Racial Equity Race no longer determines your outcome. Race isn’t a factor in one’s ability to thrive.
Racial Equity Framework Whereas a lens can shift a framework is solid. A racial equity framework takes into account race and ethnicity and considers the disparities and structural root causes of critical issues.

A shared vision involves a careful decision around what lenses and frameworks are useful for shared work. Arline-Bradley walked through the differences between racial equity and racial justice as lenses. The latter involves acknowledging racial history and understanding how it shows up in our work and in our lives. Recognizing that individuals have not been in positions of power to create change, to be meaningfully involved and who haven’t had a seat at the table to help create structures that can help change their current circumstances. 

A racial equity lens separates symptoms from causes, while a racial justice lens brings into view the confrontation of power, the redistribution of resources, and the systemic transformation necessary for real change.

“I really appreciated how Shavon dove in the details about diction and what specific words truly mean, especially when they have a vast impact on different issues like health equity, representation in decision-making/programming, etc when acted upon. There are differences between equality vs. equity, outreach vs. engagement, acceptance vs. inclusion – and Shavon picks up on these nuances and can talk about why they matter in a way that anyone can understand and internalize,” Solomon Collins, Communications Associate with Data Across Sectors for Health, expressed.

Moving from shared language to shared action involves authentic community engagement. Participants were asked to differentiate between community outreach and community engagement. Participant comments included the following: “engagement is bi-directional, outreach is to engagement is with, outreach is a checklist exercise. Engagement is transformative.”

Arline-Bradley explained that community engagement has another layer of accountability and ensures that a community member is part of the larger team and that data is shared. Voice equals vote and power is shared so that community members are seen as experts and can impact change to their circumstances. Community members are experts who can impact changes and they are a resource that should warrant investment and advancing skills and develop training opportunities. True empowerment isn’t just gifts for time or focus groups, but rather creating sustainable practices in partnership with communities as a collective. 

“Getting started means having more participation, adding more people to the table, and adjusting as needed. We cannot prioritize, map, assess, hold preliminary meetings without having true engagement. Often, we get into our practice, space, tenure, and our leadership and we forget that the community we say we’re a part of brings assets to the table that many of us do not have. We can’t do the work collectively if we don’t start out with that support and humility,” Arline-Bradley said. 

As we move towards racial equity in practice, Arline-Bradley helped us recognize that it’s not an easy process, but it is necessary to create change. She challenged participants to open the door for community engagement, move beyond outreach to making it a standard part of the work. She encouraged participants to:

  • Welcome conflict because it leads to dialogue and new perspectives. 
  • Commit to ongoing learning and long-term transformation. 
  • Ensure that activities are sustainable because it will lead to transforming culture and systems. 
  • Adopt collaborative governance models which is a key difference for inclusive and equitable practices and transparency. 

“I heard Shavon speak for the first time during a New Jersey Health Initiative event – she engaged with attendees in a way that challenged us all to think about ways we could incorporate racial equity work into our daily duties, no matter our role in our organization. Afterwards, I felt inspired to learn more about her work and found she had the lived experience and expertise to provide the All In community with strategies that would help members take the necessary steps to begin applying or continue to apply a racial equity lens to collaboration and data sharing efforts to improve the health of their community.” Naomi Rich, Program Specialist, Public Health National Center for Innovations, recalled. 

 

“I appreciated Rev. Shavon Bradley’s presentation on a Shared Racial Equity Vision, and in particular, her clarity in comparing the difference between community outreach and community engagement. Our nationalInvest Health work thatReinvestment Fund leads seeks to help small to mid-sized cities make that distinction in their efforts to authentically engage the communities they partner with to advance equity. Rev. Bradley leaned in on not just how the boxes have been historically checked, but more importantly, what the specific tactics are that can build lasting trust and equity with residents.” Jennifer Fassbender, Director of Program Initiatives, Reinvestment Fund, said. 

 

“With the All In National Meeting approaching in December, it was exciting to hear Shavon guide us in understanding key differences between the concepts of racial equity vs. racial justice, as well as community outreach vs. community engagement. We look forward to applying the framework she shared to both understand where All In communities are in their journeys but also identify where we can make improvements to promote racial justice.” Anna Barnes, Program Director, with Data Across Sectors for Health and All In, reflected. 

This training is one activity leading up to the 4th Annual All In National Meeting, taking place Dec 8 – 10. Registration is now open to All In members and the general public. RSVP here.

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