Hollywood Senior Center’s Journey of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
“The beauty of antiracism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” — Ijeoma Oluo, author of the NYT bestseller, So You Want to Talk About Race
BACK IN JUNE 2020, Hollywood Senior Center issued the following Statement of Solidarity and Commitment to Change:
Hollywood Senior Center would like to take a moment to acknowledge the brutal deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. These tragic events that have culminated in uprisings across the country have left us feeling raw, sad, angry and frustrated at our systems and policies that perpetuate systemic racism. We want to see change and know that we must all work together to eliminate disparities, counter hate, and achieve racial justice and equality.
In our own field of work, we are very aware of the grave disparities that older adults of color experience. This population faces the strongest barriers in accessing vital services. We are all aware of the practices and processes that brace up our economy and society, and even though rules and programs appear race-neutral or “fair” on the surface, they often impact people differently or unfairly.
We also want to acknowledge that although Hollywood Senior Center is an ally and a culturally responsive organization, we have much work to do to bring about change within our own organization.
We stand today in solidarity with those voicing anguish, anger, and frustration with systems that oppress and devalue Black lives. We are committed to making the necessary space to process and grieve these losses, and to do the work necessary for real change to take place.
Let us all take time to pause, acknowledge, and listen to those around us, and work to lift up the voices of peaceful protest and change.
Our ongoing commitment begins with an investment in diversity training at all levels of leadership and support.
IN SEPTEMBER 2020, Hollywood Senior Center took the important step of formalizing values and principles of our organizational equity plan so that real change can take place at the Hollywood Senior Center and in our community. Staff, Board, and members of the Advisory Council participated in nine hours of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training. A special thank you to Robin Johnson, VP of Equity and Inclusion at Umpqua Bank for facilitating these trainings.
Integral to these trainings is an understanding that everyone comes to this work with a variety of perspectives and life experiences and that a common vocabulary and a shared understanding of history are essential to begin to have challenging and meaningful conversations about race and privilege and begin to examine how both impact HSC clients and participants.
One of our first steps was to learn more about the history of racism and slavery in our country, including how institutions shape and create racial bias, giving different groups vastly unequal life chances.
With the help of a consultant, we built a shared understanding of the terms “equity, diversity, and inclusion” and how they show up in our lives and in our work.
These three trainings were thought provoking, powerful and energizing. I appreciated everyone’s involvement and openness. This was an important first step in our equity journey. Robin did a great job bringing everyone together and providing a safe space that was conducive for learning and growth.
We feel encouraged about next steps for Hollywood Senior Center. There will be more trainings and learning opportunities coming soon. The newly established DEI Committee will be meeting in the coming month to lay out a roadmap for the coming year including developing an equity statement and plan for Hollywood Senior Center. We look forward to sharing more of our equity journey in the coming months.
WE ARE PROUD to share the November 2020 HSC Equity Statement, the latest step in our DEI journey:
The Hollywood Senior Center is a not for profit organization committed to enriching the lives of all adults older than 50 living in Multnomah County, Oregon. We strive to do this by creating opportunities for social connections, health and wellness and for continued independence and life-long learning. We envision a caring, healthy, and just community which encourages intergenerational relationships, recognizes the wisdom and experience of its elders and demonstrates awareness and respect for the aging process.
Yet many Portland area’s senior citizens remain marginalized and overlooked in our community and more importantly, are at high risk for food insecurity, isolation, poverty and displacement from their homes. We recognize that historically systemic injustices such as racism, ageism, ableism, heterosexism, cis-genderism and sexism have helped perpetuate these conditions. We acknowledge that microaggressions exist and we are committed to directly confront microaggressions at all levels within our organization. We also acknowledge we need to and can do better in reaching out to all older adults of color and other marginalized communities of older adults and better serve their needs.
We are aware of the disparities that older adults of color and other marginalized communities experience. These populations face the strongest barriers in accessing vital services and for too long, have been overlooked. To ensure equitable access to our services, we are committed to transforming the Hollywood Senior Center by confronting our own biases and their impact on our decisions. We commit to reaching out to the unique and diverse older population in the area. We will be proactive and inclusive in our efforts to serve elders regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, zip code, health and ability status, and income.
The Board of Directors of the Hollywood Senior Center makes a commitment to prioritize strategies and programs that address past injustices and embrace the richness that diversity adds to our organization. From the Board of Directors, Staff, and Volunteers and to those who receive our services, Hollywood Senior Center will actively participate in advancing equity in all we do.
We commit to:
- Identifying, addressing and working to change institutional oppression within our organization so that staff, volunteers, the Board of Directors and those who partner with us will experience the Center as inclusive. We will create the time and space to continue learning and doing the work necessary to counter the forces that inhibit people of color and other marginalized people.
- Working to become more aware of whose voices shape our decisions and what voices are not heard. We must actively work to bring these voices to the table through board and staff recruitment, community partnerships, and other opportunities.
- Holding ourselves accountable through transparency, evaluation and sharing our progress toward diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
- Continuing regular meetings of our Equity and Inclusion Team and revising our equity statement and plan on an ongoing basis.
As we thoughtfully work to be a more culturally inclusive and just organization, we recognize the complexities involved to bring about systemic change within our own organization. We approach this important work with honest reflection and openness. We hold ourselves accountable to move toward necessary change and welcome others to join us.