At the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, we have been on an intentional race-equity journey since 2016—supporting and participating in St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center’s collective impact work on structural racism that evolved into the Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) and now Interrupt Racism at the Urban League.
Through community convenings and staff discussions, we’ve sought to engage in deep learning and honest dialogue on institutional racism, implicit bias, microaggressions, and White privilege. Along with better understanding the consequences of structural racism for the health of our region, we are reckoning with how we have, at times, perpetuated it within our organization and our field – and we are taking corrective action to right these wrongs.
Through our participation in REJI, we have formed a “Change Team” that has been leading our internal equity work over the past few years, as well as an affinity group in which White staff are reflecting on the impact of White supremacy culture on our organizational norms, policies and practices, and acting on the responsibility to dismantle it.
When the Black Agenda Group (BAG) launched the “Racism as a Public Health Crisis” declaration in May of 2020, it codified —in a series of profound statements— all the work we have been doing internally and provided another opportunity to express our values. As the BAG has emphasized, we recognize that this crisis demands more than statements and transactions—it demands sustained, transformative action.
Over the past few years we’ve focused on diversifying our team to ensure a strong mix of experience —both lived and professional— as well as representation from the many communities we serve. We have been reviewing and changing policies and practices to become a more equitable and inclusive organization. Additionally, we are building Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) competencies into performance evaluation and professional growth plans, such as one staff member’s pursuit of a Diversity Professional Certification.