A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Advancing Equity: Seeking to create a NKY that is inclusive of the work of all and ensures fair treatment

First of a series by NKY’s nonprofits who stand together against racism and any acts that dehumanize people.

By Wonda Winkler
Brighton Center

We all have hopes and dreams. Most people want to be able to take care of themselves and their families, have a safe and decent place to live, a better life for their children. . .to belong and to be happy. One unexpected event at any time, much less this time of COVID-19, such as a job loss or major illness can take any family off course financially. And when you are caught living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes the thought of saving for the future or building wealth seems impossible.

In Northern Kentucky, for 54 years, Brighton Center has been there to partner side by side with families as they work toward financial stability. From meeting those we serve where they are through emergency assistance services, adult and early childhood education, youth programs, and recovery services to setting the stage for long-term success through financial wellness, workforce training, and employment, we have truly offered comprehensive wraparound services that work, with tremendous, measurable results.

Over the years we have learned that families’ needs are unique and the services that support their journey to financial independence vary – quality child care, help with getting a good job or a better job offering opportunities for career advancement, getting a GED or going to post-secondary for skill training or a degree, establishing and building credit, buying their first home, and more. We have also seen that the opportunities and outcomes for everyone we serve are not equal. There are deep disparities that exist for people of color and are most pronounced for those that are black. We have seen through our work the impact of institutional and systemic racism on our families of color. Research validates this — racial and ethnic disparities exist in educational access and attainment, workforce training, and quality employment. The implications and impact of this are far-reaching not only for Northern Kentucky but for our country.

Addressing disparities requires a comprehensive and holistic approach on behalf of the community that is inclusive of the work of many partners including employers, educators, government and elected officials, and community-based organizations; partnerships and bundling of services; and policy changes at all levels (public benefits, education, criminal justice, child welfare, and workforce and economic development efforts to name a few). Our hope for Northern Kentucky is a community that ensures the systematic fair treatment of ALL people of ALL races that results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone.

Often changes will be required to policies and procedures, including those that address institutional bias. Such changes are critical for each company or organization to advance racial equity. Since the fall 2016 Brighton Center has been on an intentional journey as an organization to look inward at our practices, to challenge ourselves to truly “bake in” equity into our organizational culture, and how we make decisions. We started with our Board, then reviewed our mission, vision, and values, and added a specific goal to our strategic plan. While racial equity has always aligned with our values, we felt that we needed to be more explicit. As such, we added an agency value: our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and racial equity is imperative to the strength of our organization and community. We are committed to demonstrating this value in action. Today, our journey continues as we look at our outcome data by race/ethnicity and gender variation and include the voice of our families to help us determine what interventions/activities we will need to implement in our services to ensure all families can achieve their full potential and improve the quality of their lives.

Wonda Winkler

One of our staff, Regio Rodriquez, recently shared an article through our Cultural Inclusion Committee entitled Challenging the Status Quo where he wrote, “It was just 50 years ago, when my wife’s great-grandmother became one of the first black nurses in the State of Missouri, accomplishing her goals, and challenging Jim Crow. It was just 30 years ago, when my high school JROTC sergeant, as a young high school student participated in the Latin American movements in Texas, and California demanding inclusion of cultural studies in their high schools. Those movements inspired him to proudly serve in the Army. It was just five years ago, when my former high school principal, the first openly-gay principal in the state of Oklahoma got to finally marry her wife of 30 years, after the federal ruling approving of gay marriage in all 50 states. These are examples of people in my life who have overcome the odds. These are examples of people who stood up and spoke out against the injustices before them. Each and every one of us have inspirational leaders in our lives. We remember their plights and remember their message. We too must be those leaders. We too must set by example. We too must be brave. Black Lives Matter.”

Now is the time for us to listen carefully and respectfully, honor feelings, continue to educate ourselves, ask questions, engage in hard conversations, and encourage others to do the same. We ask that each person commit to taking specific action, and most importantly follow-through. If you are in a position of leadership within your company or organization, start with your Board and ask yourself if your company’s values reflect your commitment to racial equity, adopt anti-racism policies, and give your employees of color the opportunity to share their experience and listen.

If you are an employee, offer up suggestions for action to your supervisor, or attend a training on diversity, inclusion, or racial equity – Greater Cincinnati Foundation is offering some great ones you can find on their website, or go to Race Forward’s website for some helpful resources or materials. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation for fear you’ll say the wrong thing – seek, learn, and lead. Find someone further along on the journey than you and engage them in a conversation to advance your learning. And be willing to speak out against racial injustice.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Wonda Winkler is executive vice president of Brighton Center.

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