Black History Month is here – a time to celebrate the culture and contributions of African Americans and an opportunity to recognize the achievements of Black pioneers who made great strides in our country to advance freedom and equality, paving the way for all Americans.
However, it’s also important that we remember there is still much work to be done. While COVID-19 was tough on us all, it particularly highlighted the significant inequities – especially racial – across our region and nation in education, health, income and stability. Now, as we transition from response to recovery, we must focus on rebuilding our systems and neighborhoods in a stronger, more equitable way.
At United Way of South Hampton Roads, our goal is not to return to normal, because normal didn’t provide opportunities for all our neighbors. Our goal is to create a vibrant community where everyone has access to the resources they need to thrive. Our goal is to build back better than we were before, and we’re committed to taking a leadership role in that effort.
Here’s how we’re starting:
- In January, we launched our Community Connection Series to collect feedback and ideas from a wide variety of diverse stakeholders, particularly within the neighborhoods we serve. These small group conversations are designed to deepen our community engagement and inform our impact agenda moving forward. We’re aiming to host at least 100 conversations over the next six months and look forward to sharing our findings with the community later this year.
- Our African American Leadership Society has been hosting a series of Building Social Equity panel discussions to openly discuss challenges in our community, best practices for addressing social inequalities and the role each of us can play in making a difference.
- On March 9, the 25th anniversary class of our Project Inclusion board governance leadership development program will kick off. This program is designed to advance diversity and inclusiveness on local boards and commissions and has graduated over 750 alumni since its launch.
- This spring, we’re launching a scholarship program for African American students pursuing degrees in STEM fields, thanks to a $400,000 grant from USAA.
By coming alongside neighborhoods, creating more spaces for the right conversations and intentionally partnering with communities of color, we hope to support the lasting, transformational changes needed to create a community that is fully inclusive and equitable for all.