At our September meeting, we learned from Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC).
He challenged us to be intentionally inclusive by (1) examining your own lens, (2) asking and encouraging tough questions, and (3) acknowledging the role of institutional bias. Jonathan began by asking participants to share the meaning of their name and how they respond when their name is mispronounced. We learned that our names are an important entry point into beginning to understand each other. Jonathan explained that many feel pressure to downplay parts of their identify to fit into the mainstream, and he warned us that the problem with stereotypes is not that they’re not true, but that they are incomplete. He encouraged us to watch an excellent TED talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The danger of a single story, to continue learning.
Jonathan challenged us to ask tough questions and to recognize that it’s hard to be intentionally inclusive because there’s so much that we don’t know, that we don’t know. There may be institutional practices that we do not realize are pushing some people up and some people down. He suggested an audit of your organization’s practices, looking at language, physical environment, traditions and policies. There is a comprehensive Toolkit for Serving Diverse Communities available from the U.S. Administration on Aging as a PDF here. Jonathan invited us to proudly display “This is an inclusive place” decals provided by VCIC and include #inclusiveplace in our social media posts. Visit www.inclusiveva.org for additional resources, and view the slides from Jonathan’s inspiring and thought-provoking presentation!
Thank you to Kathy Morton and Westminster Canterbury for hosting us in their beautiful facility.