Black History Month is a time for celebration, reflection and hope for the future. Yet as we celebrate the beautiful, vibrant and resilient Black (African-American) culture, we cannot forget the struggles Black people have endured and continue to endure today.
Black people experience discrimination and racial profiling, and are disproportionately impacted by homelessness. This is why Central City Concern (CCC) invests in programs such as the Imani Center and Flip the Script to increase services to this community historically underserved by organizations that help people find housing, behavioral health services and employment opportunities. Afrocentric programs are a great start for our organization, but we know there is more we can do: not only to celebrate the history of the Black community inside and outside our organization, but also to identify and address the ways in which white supremacy drives care inequities. Recognizing our responsibility, CCC is committed to being a diverse, anti-racist, equitable and inclusive organization, with this promise reflected in our organizational leadership, as well as institutional practices and policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
We are stepping closer to this goal. Freda Ceaser, previously CCC’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, is now CCC’s Chief Equity Officer (CEqO). Freda leads with vision, skill and innovation to inspire and push the organization forward. She will build on her current work, setting and implementing an overarching vision of DEI—both at the programmatic and administrative levels—that promotes inclusive practices in our structures, culture and leadership.
Afrocentric programs are a great start for our organization, but we know there is more we can do: not only to celebrate the history of the Black community inside and outside our organization, but also to identify and address the ways in which white supremacy drives care inequities.
CCC has also made additional investments in the Office of Equity and Inclusion, hiring Associate Director Mariam Admasu to provide support to the director’s leadership team. Mariam will hire an equity specialist in the coming months to add an additional layer of support to CCC staff. In order to ensure that the Office of Equity and Inclusion has the bandwidth and resources to move work forward, we have also engaged two Portland State University School of Social Work interns, Shaun Cook and Clarice Jordan.
CCC will invest as needed to follow through on our commitment to becoming more diverse, anti-racist, equitable and inclusive by building institutional infrastructure and capacity to do the work. In the coming year, CCC will work with a local consultant to capture a wide snapshot of where we are today with regard to equity and inclusion through interviews and listening sessions with CCC’s board, clients and staff. This assessment will result in an equity lens, DEI governance model and DEI organizational roadmap.
Lastly, CCC’s advancing equity strategic goals were made as a roadmap to ensuring the best, most responsive services possible to Black people and people of color, with a focus on intentional efforts to have our staff reflect the communities they serve.
While Black History Month presents an opportunity for CCC to celebrate Black culture, we also look ahead to the many opportunities during the remaining 11 months to make a difference!