Breaking Through The Closed Roads

June 04, 2020 | United Way Team

We fight for every person in our community. Join us to Live United for equity and justice in East Central Iowa.

In my 20-plus years of running, I’ve come across countless “Road Closed” signs. None of them have deterred me. Call it runner’s confidence … or runner’s stupidity … I can fit and maneuver around many obstacles vehicles can’t. After all, it’s clear by my clothing, my stride and my focus that I’m harmless, going about my morning run when road construction forces me halfway onto someone’s property.

As you can see, this recent Road Closed sign wasn’t messing around, though. And it was duricdn2.hubspot.nethubfs4985198Road Closed 1-2ng these 45 seconds of struggle that my mind turned to all that’s going on around us in the world as African Americans scream to be heard and seen and respected for being...people. And during those 45 seconds, I realized “Road Closed” might not deter me because of my white privilege.

And it seemed those 45 seconds of personal struggle through a construction site represented what our country is going through right now. The warning signs have been there, yet we as a society, have ignored them, running right past. And now some of us with privilege are finding ourselves in uncharted territory that’s thick and unnavigated, just like the wooded corner lot. Stinging, scratching and biting as a new way is sought out. The sand slipping underfoot is the previous known ways sliding away. And after we pass through this difficult portion together, the test isn’t over. Just like my run, the steepest hill of all routes still lies before all of us.

Even with that, there’s opportunity, and working within United Way of East Central Iowa offers a vantage point to what can be. United Way is an organization that deeply values equity, diversity and inclusion as reflected in our position statement below. We’re incorporating this into our daily work as we fight for our community’s most vulnerable populations. It’s in our credo: We fight for the education, financial stability and health of every person in our community. Every person.

During the height of COVID-19, we worked to make sure immigrant populations received culturally appropriate food. UWECI also worked this spring to get migrant children the needed reading and school supplies when schooling went virtual. This past winter we hosted a Gray Area Thinking workshop around inclusivity, and our previous Community Equity reports discuss these issues in detail. Additionally, our partner agencies create access and opportunities to direct services for every person in our community on a daily basis.Road Closed 5

However, UWECI recognizes that there’s still more work we must do in equity, diversity, inclusion and engagement to propel our changing communities forward. Here are some areas we can explore: how, as an organization, do we engage community around these critical issues that impact quality of life? How can we be more diligent in incorporating it into how we gather and present data? How do we recognize and be mindful of our human biases in our funding decisions? Do our policies, procedures and initiatives fight underlying racism, prejudice and privilege? How do our interactions with volunteers build up individual’s knowledge about the systemic inequities and social injustices? And what does our advocacy around the issues of equity, diversity, engagement, and inclusion look like?

Similarly, this work of UWECI is like the sand in the road construction. While difficult to get through, it’s the base for a new foundation. And that huge hill ahead is the road we still have to travel. It’s difficult, there’s times of walking instead of running, and there’s instances of wanting to give up. But in the end, we have to hold hope that our community will hit the peak.

UWECI can’t do it alone though. We invite you to join us to Live United and break through the “Road Closed” signs. Let’s climb the hill and help all racial/ethnic and social groups have equitable access to opportunities and resources to enhance their quality of life, as they rightly deserve.

-Kristin Roberts, President & CEO

United Way Worldwide Statement on Equity and Access to Justice

JUNE 1, 2020

Statement from United Way’s Worldwide Board Chair and CEO on equity and access to justice

United Way believes that every person is entitled to be treated with dignity and respectRoad Closed 4 – this includes equal treatment and access to justice. Recent events involving violence and threats against African Americans expose our society’s underlying racism, prejudice and privilege that prevent too many people from being treated with the humanity and respect they deserve. These incidents are abhorrent and run counter to everything that United Way, its volunteers and professionals value, live and fight for every day.

All people of all backgrounds and identities must call out discrimination and demand its removal from our society; otherwise, we are endorsing the status quo and are complicit in the abuses that follow.

We must all do our part, working United, to make our communities the places that we need them to be – equitable, respectful and opportunity-filled. We, as a society, can and must do better to guarantee that the basic human rights and freedoms of every person in every community are protected.