Month two of 2017 is in full swing. Richmond funders, nonprofits and community leaders are partnering to foster further collaboration, convening, innovation and poliy-shaping action. Last week, Initiatives of Change – Hope in the Cities hosted a forum, “Journey to Equity – Closing the Racial Equity Gap Benefits All” at the University of Richmond. The program included keynote speaker, Reverend Alvin Herring of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Program Chair, John Taylor, host and University of Richmond President, Dr. Ronald A. Crutcher, Mayor Stoney’s Senior Policy Advisor, Dr. Thad Williamson and our very own CEO, Kelly Chopus. The event inspired a larger than anticipated crowd. Registrants came together eager to share and provide their thoughts on what equity means and where it is most needed in metro Richmond. At the direction of Reverend Herring, individuals took the time to see each other and appreciate all shades and walks of life. The event and its fervent participants were a sign that Richmond is ready to rise up and meet the challenges and divides that history has cut so deeply into the former capital of the Confederacy. Many left the event confident and energized. Herring congratulated Richmond and celebrated its strides toward racial equity and the journey many in the room have agreed to travel. The speakers highlighted how higher education, city administration and nonprofit work are all contributing to building equity, brick by brick.
Kelly provided the community response; she told a story of two people of varying heights struggling to see over a fence. Each is given an equally large brick to stand on. The brick affords the taller individual a clear view over the fence but the shorter person’s view is still blocked. They were treated equally… but is it equitable? She challenged the audience to consider what bricks they provide the Richmond community on its continued path toward equity.
The next day, we discovered a brick on the doorstep of the Robins office from one of our partners. Delighted by the gesture, we put the brick on display as motivation. The purpose of our efforts and our community partners is to make Richmond a better place for children and their families.
The visual proved perfect timing as it became a topic of discussion for those in the office. Following the “Journey to Equity” event, Robins had Gita Gulati-Partee of OpenSource Leadership Strategies on the calendar. Gita, an expert in structural power and equity, organizational and movement strategy, systems change advocacy and a plethora of other leadership strategies came to Richmond to speak to funders about options available to philanthropic institutions to engage in advocacy and equity. She facilitated a discussion entitled “Policy, Philanthropy & Equity”. Gita shared how historical and structural racism continue to create inequity by race and zip code, affecting every aspect of a person’s life, including life span. Deeper in the discussion, she pinpointed advocacy as a means to change policy and systems in order to advance equity. Participants experienced inequity through a game of Pictionary and deconstructed variables that influenced the outcome of a championship-banned youth football team, the Cougars in Asheville, NC. Questions and opinions on high-level issues along with potential next steps were conveyed by meeting participants, all while the brick stood in as a symbol.
To end the week, our staff decided to take the brick idea a step further. Our intern, Dan created a display with more bricks and included the commonly used equality vs. equity graphic referenced by Kelly. We hope the display serves as a reminder that we are working each day for equity, and through it all, we realize our community partners’ complex challenges. It takes time and dedication but brick by brick, we will create equity for all. Brick by brick, Richmond is on the rise!