Diversity Buzz

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become standard vocabulary for many organizations to include in their missions, presentations, and conversations around their organizational work. As public servants, these should be organizational values. In our work, we serve a wide range of people with varying backgrounds and cultures. But, the struggle comes from moving beyond the use of the words and building them into organizational action and culture. So this week, I got to experience some of the ways that Chatham County is working towards building diversity, equity, and inclusion into organizational action and culture.

The first event that I attended was the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) training for the Chatham Public Health Department. The training was conducted by the NC Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. The training was a good combination of self-reflection about our backgrounds, activities to push us out of our comfort zone, and discussion to apply this knowledge to our work moving forward. Below is a slide from the training that mentions the drivers and determinants of health, meaning the things that impact health disparities. What stood out to me most was how the trainers pushed us to think about how these drivers and determinants impact the people we serve in Chatham County.

picture of a powerpoint slide from the CLAS training that says the drivers and determinants of health. it says social, economic, environmental, ecological, and cultural factors can contribute to drivers and determinants of health. It states environmental, education, housing, transportation, health care, food & nutrition, violence, and poverty as social determinants.

This past Saturday, Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE) and the Chatham County Library hosted an event celebrating Juneteenth. For those who do not know, Juneteenth is an important holiday for many people in the African American community. It stems from the end of the Civil War. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery (as we traditionally define it). However, African Americans in Texas remained enslaved for an additional two and a half years. On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers made their way to Texas declaring the freedom of African Americans. For many in the African American community, Juneteenth is a day of remembrance, reflection, and celebration of the actual end of slavery. The event hosted by CORE and the library was titled a celebration of African American Culture and Resilience. It was an amazing space to share history and create community. The event hosted speakers that talked about “African Civilation before Slavery” (Dr. Charles Johnson, NCCU), Human Trafficking in the Historical Context of U.S. Slavery” (Robin Colbert & Christy Croft, NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault) and “Native Americans, Africans & Slavery in NC” (Dr. Arwin Smallwood, NC A&T University). I am thankful that the community was able to have access to such rich knowledge.

picture of the Juneteenth event
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Watkins-Cruz of the Juneteenth Event

And to top it all off, I attended a session from the Chatham County Leadership Academy. There were attendees from all different departments in the County like emergency personnel, officers, nurse supervisors, and a nutritionist. This particular session was Cultural Competency Part II taught by our Human Resources Director, Carolyn Miller. It was a two-hour session that discussed privilege, institutional racism, and implicit bias (system I vs system II thinking). Most importantly, Carolyn Miller talked about how we have to dig deeper when we incorporate diversity into our workforce. She described that it has to go beyond just representative bureaucracy (though important), but that we need to begin to ask the WHY questions. It was a really insightful session that incorporated a lot of great information around racial diversity, equity, and inclusion to push those working in the County to create a more inclusive workplace.

Chatham County definitely has room to grow, as do many other institutions. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the commitment of different folks in the community working towards making diversity, equity, and inclusion not only espoused values, but also enacted values in the County.

picture of me, Stephanie, and Darrell in a giant chair at lunch
From left to right: Me, Stephanie Watkins-Cruz (Chatham County Policy Analyst), and Darrell Butts (Chatham County Budget Analyst) at lunch after the Cultural Competency Part II session.

P.S. I have found my favorite lunch spot! It’s Mi Cancun, where this lovely photo was taken. We can get a good, hearty and YUMMY lunch for under $7. (Also, do you spot any UNC-Chapel Hill MPA alums???)

Anyways, I look forward to updating you again next week!


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