Personal Message From Mary Regarding Public Health Crises

This message is late – beyond late. However, considerable reflection from my end across all spectrums personally, through my lens as a community member, educator and business owner at One-Community has been required. In this time of two public health crises including COVID-19 and racism, my implicit biases have had to be profoundly examined while listening, intentional learning and acknowledgement given with consideration to my personal and professional blind spots due to my white privilege. Additionally, the cascading effects of personal and professional trauma triggers within myself and personal as well as professional circles have had to be examined with continuing deeper dives.

I have been overwhelmed by profound grief during this time of isolation as well as national social unrest and police brutality. For me, personally and professionally partnering with government structures and working on development has provided a sense of great fulfillment in the past. Witnessing colleagues, friends and families fracture during this period of examination and hard questions has been beyond disturbing and I have been unable to equally put words to it. I am inadequate to articulate my anguish over the killings we have witnessed over the years, months, and these last weeks including Trayvon Martin, Layleen Polanco, Sandra Bland, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Sean Bell, Tanisha Anderson, Atatiana Jefferson, Charleena Lyles, Maurice Gordon, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown Jr., Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, Walter Scott, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks – and those and their families affected by the term now coined “less lethal” violence – that is rooted in white supremacy. Black lives matter. Through the COVID-19 pandemic there is stark illumination of the racial, economic and health inequities active within our country. We cannot look away from questioning the very mantle of safety our society rests upon. It is shown to be hollow.

As the owner of a collective impact community and economic development business I work with marginalized populations to bring all community members, stakeholders and representatives of the public and private sector together for social change. We are not doing a good enough job. We have not been doing a good enough job. We must look in the mirror. This begins directly where we’re at. Therefore, I want to share with you an update on actions taken:

Within economic development, many diversity and inclusion efforts stem from, or in partnership with, government and urban planning partners jointly sitting at the table with public health officers, academic and stakeholder engagement. In some cases it is the facilitators’ responsibility to demonstrate the interconnected layers of economy and jobs creation with overall quality of life and placemaking. I have been discussing this with several health departments covering 10 counties on how to approach conversations where leadership may not recognize the need for broader context, policy conversation or connect equality efforts. Here are several suggestions that you may also find helpful when beginning the conversation where popular opinion may reflect a sense that diversity and inclusion efforts are not necessary due to majority population statistics and lack of knowledge surrounding disproportionate ill effects:

  • Begin where activism gateways are already mobilized such as environmental or voting efforts.
  • Provide conversation opportunity that offers stakeholders the ability to note differences between community members and how this has effected families with focus on the next generation.
  • Facilitate joint leadership and stakeholder conversation around the pro’s and con’s of how short and long term efforts, such as job creation, effect segments of the community.

What may be lifted up through this type of open discussion as seemingly subtle difference may then reveal through group discussion very unequitable outcomes while also acting as a doorway to further reflection. It is a time for deep listening and discernment. It is also necessary to look directly and immediately with support to remove blinders and to acknowledge that further education is required to root out those subtle and not-so-subtle oppressions. Wisdom is available through examination of past projects with a 20/20 view on projected community development beliefs, behaviors and practice impacts that may perpetuate microaggressions, institutional and structural racisms. In consulting there is no “one size fits all” measurement for successful social impact work and perpetuating messages that promise evaluative measures or more inclusive practices can disingenuously resound as performative statements – worse, disintegrating trust when not followed through. We must first seek to understand directly where we’re at.

My commitment redoubles to the empowerment of vibrant community. In these foci areas that O-CC is so passionate about – public health – economic impact – workforce innovation – specializing in work with partners on: food justice, democratization of economy and building more inclusive workforce, myself, teams and contractors must also commit to growth and understand that means discomfort as we work to pinpoint the ways that privilege has not only been experienced in our lives, but how it effects One-Community as a business. This begins within, at home and in the back yard. Simple and collaborative personal actions – like joining a book club – are a great way to engage in safe space discussion as well as support networks.

For example, my book club is currently reading The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein providing a detailed history of institutional racism through housing policy as well as An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz. I also want to highlight as a former board member of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing the work this tremendous organization continues to do and opportunity to join their support group, “Processing the Movement”, as a safe place to talk through and emotionally digest public protest, police brutality and current conversation about race in our nation for Black, Indigenous and people of color as well as allies. More information and registration can be found here https://www.facebook.com/events/639640780231132/  We also want to acknowledge and give special thanks to the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Learning Community hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Looking outward, my professional efforts and O-CC’s direction is also focused on America’s history of investment, practice and the policy it rests on with emphasis on the Investment Company Act of 1940 – the policy that historically has dictated this country’s wealth building. Specifically, I have reached out to academic and legal partners and for national association support to better analyze how this legislation informs who, what and where wealth-building may occur. I want to thank the Michigan Nonprofit Association, Michigan State University, Cutting Edge Capital and the National Coalition for Community Capital for their extension and resource support.

To summarize: we will continue to start with ourselves and directly where we’re working acknowledging there is a very long way to go. I personally am pursuing sensitivity training and joining larger Mid Michigan diversity and inclusion effort. Within the state and nationally, we’re looking at racism in policy and continuing to provide research on community capital practice to support dismantling institutional racism. Lastly, O-CC is also increasing its monthly volunteering efforts and providing One Love Global, Inc pro-bono support with the joint goal of breaking transgenerational cycles of poverty and trauma. We continue to invite feedback, education, joint examination and more collaborative partnership for collective impact.