September marked the one-year anniversary of VNSNY’s Anti-Racism Council. In twelve short months, ARC’s 100-plus members have made significant strides towards implementing practices and projects that combat racism and promote diversity and inclusiveness in the VNSNY workplace and in the communities VNSNY serves.
ARC was organized over the summer of 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent social unrest. To set an agenda for the employee advisory group, staff volunteers met in listening sessions to discuss their experiences with racism within VNSNY and elsewhere. A core leadership team and enterprise-level anti-racism strategies were in place by the fall.
In the months that have followed, ARC has made tremendous strides.
- It introduced VNSNY’s first organization-wide diversity training and first workforce diversity and inclusion survey. It also released the first video version of the annual Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, which was directed by and features ARC members.
- It established an employee support group to discuss race and racism and engaged guest speakers from academia and communities of color. An ARC committee, in partnership with VNSNY’s Business Intelligence & Analytics department, is analyzing data and interviewing program leaders as preliminary steps in developing a dashboard on VNSNY’s services in those communities.
- With focus on career development and diversity in leadership, ARC offered the new Pre-Leader Foundations program, a series of five classes that introduces non-managers to management concepts. To date, 140 employees have completed the series. A leadership development program for directors and above, as well as a diversity internship program for graduate students, will be introduced next year.
- ARC contributed significantly to tactics to expand our recruitment diversity network. These efforts were complemented by the launch of a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) page on the VNSNY Careers website.
- And, throughout the year, ARC invited VNSNY staff to embrace its diversity. Under its leadership, sponsored events and other activities were mounted for the MLK Day of Service, Black History Month, Diversity Month, Juneteenth, and Hispanic Heritage Month. In addition, ARC hosts a quarterly book club and distributes a monthly multicultural calendar. A diversity cookbook with recipes from VNSNY staff will also be released late this year.
“As a Black woman, being able to figure out ways to uplift the staff within VNSNY to make it a more equitable organization has been incredibly meaningful to me,” noted Christina Lomax, co-leader of ARC.
“To accomplish everything, we have in the past year is a testament to the commitment of the ARC members, and to the support we’ve gotten from VNSNY’s leadership,” added Keith Peters, ARC’s other co-leader.
Linda Reid, Director, Workplace Planning and Diversity, who has worked closely with ARC, concluded, “Kudos to the ARC members. You saw possibilities and made many of them happen. I hope you appreciate your power as change agents.”