Reflections: Our Personal & Professional Efforts Toward Racial Equity is a monthly blog. Each month, we will reflect on what we are doing either personally or professionally to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in our work. View more
View our Equity Values & Commitment
Growing up, my family’s journey was deeply rooted in the pursuit of the American dream. My parents, who were farm workers, arrived in the mainland of the United States from Puerto Rico with the determination to provide their family with every opportunity to succeed. While they were familiar with class differences, the racial discrimination they faced as an interracial couple in the Jim Crow South brought new challenges and shaped their perspective on life. This inspired my parents to teach us to never let assumptions define who we are or limit our potential.
I recall moments throughout my life when prejudice reared its ugly head, like when people would demand we speak English instead of Spanish while conversing in public. In response, I would politely assert that I could indeed speak English. These incidents were reminders that society may try to put us in boxes, but we should never let racism hold us back.
Equity, to me, is about creating opportunities and striving for fairness. It means ensuring that all individuals in our community have access to the resources, experiences and support systems they need to thrive. Efforts toward equity help to provide opportunities to those who lack access, knowledge or awareness that they can succeed, regardless of the potential barriers they might encounter.
Equity also involves building relationships and engaging with communities – learning from the wisdom of those most impacted by an issue and collaboratively working together to solve those problems. That is why I am proud of the work the Community Foundation has been doing to advance equity in Central New York.
Its new five-year strategic plan is influenced by the principles of proximate leadership – being guided by the input, ideas and assets of community members who have been historically stereotyped, dismissed or marginalized. By drawing closer to the communities we aim to serve, and listening and engaging, we can gain deeper insights and forge meaningful connections that ensure our efforts align with their needs and aspirations.
The new plan includes an equity commitment & action statement that outlines how equity efforts are infused through the Community Foundation’s work – including its grantmaking, development, communications, financial investment, operations and more. And what I find most heartening is that we are holding ourselves accountable to do what we say we are going to do through measurable goals.
As vice-chair of the Community Foundation, I have witnessed firsthand how even the smallest initiative or grant can yield substantial results. Whether it’s providing opportunities for children to go camping or supporting individuals through career development training, every little investment in the community counts. The stories we gather along the way from the lives that are touched serve as testaments to the importance of our efforts.
As we enter this new phase at the Community Foundation, I am filled with optimism and a renewed sense of purpose. I am grateful for the progress we have made and am excited about the impact we can create together. Let us cherish the power of small gestures, nurture human potential and build a future where everyone has equal access to opportunities.