Contact: Gwen Higgins, Chair, 452-5931
We have adopted the Adinka symbol of West Africa. It is a symbol of diversity and unity. The Siamese crocodiles share one stomach, yet they fight over food. This symbol is a reminder that infighting and tribalism is harmful to all who engage in it.
Poughkeepsie AAUW and Gwen Higgins would like to share with you some references in light of the current Social Justice movements.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION COMMITTEE
Gwen Higgins, Chair, 452-5931
From The Branch, October 2020
We are living in unusual times. Issues that speak to women’s rights are at the forefront of social action. The 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage has made us keenly aware of the history that brought women the right to vote. The “Me Too” movement revealed the horrific consequences of privileged men. The pleading voices of our young people have awakened us to the level of systematic racism built into the structure of our society. Many of us have been made to confront our own sense of privilege in the face of loud and determined cries for social justice.
The signs, speeches and slogans of the protesters reminded me of my marching and speech making days during the civil rights movement. My heart was moved not only by the videos of the violence and atrocities committed by people in authority upon my black brothers and sisters, but was reminded of how so many justified these actions as the behavior of a few bad apples. I knew that I was missing something; this was not the America in which I thought I lived. Have you wrestled with that question? After a significant amount of research, I filled in major gaps in my historical knowledge and asked myself what I could do about it. The response that most satisfies me is to share.
The new concept of what the Diversity and Inclusion Committee envisions is wrapped up in the word “share.” The history of the committee has always included offering social activities with women of varying cultures in the hope of fostering multicultural appreciation. Such experiences will continue to be part of the committee’s offering. Dr. Ibram X. Kendi suggests that we begin our journey of understanding with self-education. To that end, the committee will share book lists intended to give insight and background to issues unfamiliar to most of us. We will enhance our education with periodic conversations around issues of bias, social justice and inclusion, thus sharing what we learn with other members.
I do not know if anyone has noticed, but in our branch of close to 300 women, only 10 are women of color. I am uncomfortable with that. What can we do to make our membership more inclusive? This committee will explore how to be more inclusive, not just of different ethnicities, but abilities, sexual orientations, ages, socioeconomic status and more. How do we attract more women of diverse backgrounds? How do we make ourselves more visible to younger women? And even more importantly, what can we offer the ladies that will entice them to remain members?
Our initiatives are services to our communities. We do them and do them well. But there are many programs and organizations in our communities with which it would be wise to collaborate. Many of our members are on boards and are members of service organizations with which we may be able to collaborate. With the help of the membership we could investigate. Such an investigation would surely make us more visible in our communities.
I believe this committee has the potential to modernize the face of our branch. Both State and National have made concrete suggestions and explicit statements encouraging a committee like this one to be more energized in meeting the goals of inclusion. If you have the desire, share your energy—join the committee. Look for the opportunity to become involved with us as we have difficult conversations. Discover new histories and meet people who are different. Become more informed through a lecture on Zoom. Join us. Contact Gwen Higgins for more information.