In August of 2020, to create an open dialogue about diversity within GoodLife, we established a Diversity Committee composed of residents, employees, leadership, partners, and board members. The purpose of this committee is (1) to provide information and opportunities to increase awareness about the barriers of injustice that continue to diminish the rights of those who have been marginalized, and (2) to engage members of GoodLife in conversations about diversity and inclusion.
With eight months under our belt, the committee is busier than ever. “Before we formed the committee, the underlying question I heard from DSPs, residents, and employees—especially our black and brown friends— was, ‘Can we talk about our worries, fears, or misunderstandings at work?’” shares Melba Wright, committee co-chair and Director of Day and Work Services. “Where there was silence, now there is dialogue and celebration.”
The committee meets quarterly to discuss current issues and ways to support one another’s different ethnicities, nationalities, genders, religious beliefs, and sexual orientations. “We’ve already celebrated seniors, women, black history, and religious freedoms,” Melba says with a smile. “We share articles, resources, and stories across the organization. We deliver kits to homes, with special activities specific to what we’re celebrating and learning that month. The residents and staff love it!”
For Gender Equality Month, residents celebrated Amelia Earhart by making paper planes. And for Black History Month, Melba’s husband, an opera singer, performed a virtual concert. He took the audience through a musical journey from call-and-response slave songs to modern day hip hop.
Unfortunately, we continue to see injustice impact individuals of color in very real and violent ways across the country. “Our staff face very real feelings of anger, confusion, and sadness as a result of systemic discrimination,” continues Melba, “and it’s our responsibility to give rise to their voices, to share in their anguish, to validate their feelings, and to provide a work environment that upholds the values of inclusion, diversity, and interdependence.”
Melba is looking forward to being able to host an in-person Diversity and Inclusion event at Midnight Farm, once it is safe to do so. “It’s been so special to learn from all of the different points-of-view and voices represented,” she says. “To have everyone in one place, celebrating all that is unique and diverse about our community will be one heck of a party!”
“The committee is open to anyone who wants to join,” says Melba. “I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they feel heard and cared for.” Suddenly, homes are filled with Black Lives Matter shirts, LGBTQ ribbons, and new conversations. “They recognize GoodLife is a place they can be fully themselves. That’s transformative for them—and for me, personally and professionally.”