This past summer, I had the opportunity along with our development director, Manny Martinez, to join 225 other United Way professionals at the 2019 United Way Equity Summit in New Orleans, La.
The summit was an opportunity for attendees to hear from practitioners in the equity space, as well as to learn from one another, in order to accelerate our work.
Highlights from the Equity Summit include thoughtful perspectives from guest speakers, including keynotes by Edgar Villanueva (author of “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance”) and Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez, founder and CEO, Seam Innovation. The Summit also featured several panels, including United Way Senior Leaders Driving Equity Work in their Organizations, African American Philanthropists and Foundation Leaders, and Corporate Partners. Learning sessions included perspectives from local United Ways outlining how they are taking on this work in different capacities, specifically highlighting strategic first steps to take.
The Summit also featured panels on its general session stage. The panel of corporate partners included Ernst & Young, Proctor & Gamble, and Dave & Buster’s, and they discussed how racial equity fits into their values as businesses. On the second day, we heard from senior leaders throughout the United Way Network who are advancing racial equity within their organizations. This session was followed by a panel featuring African American philanthropic leaders Marcus Brown, Entergy Corporation; Bruce Carter, Church Mutual Insurance Company; and Linda Wilson, Fund II Foundation. During this session, panelists gave context for the long history of giving in the African American community, and how to best engage with high net worth individuals.
The conference included great learning sessions featuring dynamic leaders in the network. Jennifer Ingram, VP of Diversity Equity & Inclusion from the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, explained how their United Way has invested in the journey of becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization. Leaders from United Way of Washtenaw County and United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region held a session focused on embedding equity in board practices, organizational operations, and community impact work. Another highlight was a learning session focused on how donor engagement drives the inclusion of diverse voices. Session leaders explained that it leads to creating equitable solutions to community challenges in education, income, and health. The Interaction Institute for Social Change was also on hand. They led a session focused on needs of senior leaders to lead by example, create the space and the budget for this work and to influence their teams.
This work is extremely important to Middlesex United Way, as one of our seven values includes “Iiclusivity,” and we are inspired by and inclusive of our community’s diversity. Historically, Middlesex United Way has believed in and valued inclusivity, as everybody needs representation when it comes to tackling the issues our community faces.
Middlesex County is a community made up of individuals that come from all different backgrounds and have different experiences, abilities, and most importantly- different perspectives. In order for everyone in our community to succeed we must enrich and strengthen the quality of our work.
We are excited to work with Diana Martinez, who is not only one of our board directors but who is also a leader in the Middletown Racial Justice Coalition. We also are fortunate to have the talents of our Wesleyan University work-study student, Kioni Marshall, We have also committed to serving as the fiduciary of the Middletown Racial Justice Coalition. We have much to learn and much to do but we are more committed than ever to be as inclusive as possible. To learn more about the work we do, please reach out at 860-346-8695.
Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown.