In the summer of 2020, we committed to taking concrete steps toward challenging white supremacy and becoming an anti-racist organization. While we recognize that this will be ongoing work, we pledged to report back on our efforts. A full report was provided to the AccessMatters staff and board in October 2021. Below are some examples of our work towards meeting our FY21 anti-racism goals.

  • Complete a review of internal policies and practices related to the recruitment, onboarding, development, and support of staff.
    • Examine our employment policies, recruiting, onboarding and retention practices, staff development supports, salary and benefits structure, and performance review practices to identify and eradicate those that perpetuate racism and uphold white supremacist culture
      Status: We are in the process of reviewing and rethinking our employment policies and documents, both in consultation with R&S Wellness’ Sharea Farmer, a licensed clinical social worker with specialization in trauma-informed supervision and racial equity, and with the AccessMatters Union formed in December 2020. The last several months have been spent moving into that new union framework and maintaining status quo while getting collective bargaining underway. We look forward to advancing this effort in the coming year.
  • Create sustained supportive spaces for staff to process their experiences with, or their role in perpetuating, racism.
    • Funding a facilitated space, on an ongoing basis, for Black staff to process their experiences in safety and solidarity
      Status: We have engaged R&S Wellness to conduct regular virtual sessions (twice most months) for Black staff, and have received positive feedback from staff about this resource.
    • Funding a facilitated space, on an ongoing basis, for non-Black staff of color to process their experiences in safety and solidarity
      Status: We have made periodic support available to staff of other racial identities, but we have prioritized the needs of Black staff over the past year, and focused resources and capacity there.
  • Focus an anti-racist lens on our programming
    • Examine each of our programs anew with intentionality about our impact on Black and other oppressed and marginalized communities
      Status: We have dedicated time at the Senior Management Team (SMT) level to assess, on a program by program basis, how our work perpetuates white supremacy, and what we can do to approach our work in an anti-racist and trauma informed manner. To date, we have looked at our research and evaluation function, explored resource development from this angle, and the internal and external impact of our training work. These SMT discussions were informed by program and departmental discussions soliciting staff input.
    • Increasing our efforts to support legislation and grantmaking to address and eradicate the impact of racism on Black maternal health
      Status: We have reexamined our entire advocacy priority list using an anti-racist and trauma-informed lens that includes, but extends beyond, pregnancy-related mortality and other disparities due to racism. We have also reviewed ways to engage around dangerous anti-abortion centers (so-called “crisis pregnancy centers”), around declaring racism a public health crisis, and looked at other ways in which we can support a broad reproductive justice framework. Within our statewide breast/chestfeeding grantmaking program, we supported smaller, less-resourced agencies engaged in birth justice work for Black and Brown birthing people, and worked to support their efforts during the pandemic through up-front funding practices to ensure they had resources they needed to keep functioning.
    • Support the leadership and amplify the voices of BIPOC-led partner organizations, including through support of BIPOC-led coalitions and collaborations
      Status: We continually look for opportunities to bring BIPOC-led groups into coalition work where they are not currently participating, for example, in recent advocacy work regarding the state’s funding of anti-abortion centers, and in advocacy regarding language in a contraceptive coverage bill that we felt perpetuated stereotypes about Black women. In May, we co-hosted an online statewide event with Birth Brown (a non-profit focused on supporting BIPOC birth workers) entitled “Doula Support is Culturally Responsive Care: Moving Towards Collaborative Models of OB/GYN Care.” This online panel event – which attracted almost 100 participants from across the state – featured 90% Black speakers (OB/GYNs, midwives, and doulas) and aimed to reduce the historic tension between doulas and medical providers, and expand understanding and partnership among all members of the birthing care team as part of client-centered care.
  • Ensure organizational leadership is equipped to effectively support anti-racist work
    • Expand trainings at our board and senior management level to ensure governance, coaching, and supportive supervision occur through anti-racist and trauma-informed frameworks
      Status: Our board has engaged in work with R&S Wellness and with development consultants Schultz & Williams to discuss approaching its work through an anti-racist and trauma-informed lens; we continually discuss with management trauma-informed supervision as core to our value system, and key especially over the past year. R&S Wellness will launch next month a 5-part training series on trauma-informed supervision to be incorporated into consecutive management meetings. Prior to kicking off our program assessments, SMT read and discussed together Tema Okun’s “Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture” article to ensure we had a common understanding of the practices that might be reflected in our program implementation and day-to-day operations.
  • Our CEO’s work as a white leader – Continue the personal work of continuous anti-racist learning, including listening and being in dialogue with BIPOC staff and partners in a way that does not impose emotional labor; participating in an anti-Black racism leadership group and a non-work anti-racism discussion group; continued anti-racism reading, training and conference participation; contributing financially to anti-racist causes; and continuing individualized anti-racism/trauma-informed executive coaching.
    Status: Our President and CEO remains deeply committed to her own anti-racist learning and has engaged in conversations and discussions with BIPOC staff, worked to build closer relationships with reproductive justice organizations and other social justice tables, helped to create both a CEO anti-racism learning circle and an anti-racism discussion group that continue to meet, continues self-driven learning through reading and courses, engages in executive coaching with the trauma-informed consultant, and makes regular meaningful donations to anti-racist organizations.

We are working in earnest to achieve more of our commitments as outlined in the full statement we launched in June 2019. This includes continuously examining our policies, practices, and program design and implementation through trauma-informed and anti-racist lenses. It also means centering the voices of Black staff in restarting an anti-racism working group that will, among other things, help develop accountability mechanisms that are meaningful to BIPOC staff.  If you have questions, suggestions, or recommendations for this work, please email [email protected].

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