Viewed through an anti-racist lens, there is no such thing as being neutral or non-racist. Individuals and organizations must actively work to eliminate systemic racism and white supremacy culture. We cannot accept the status quo. West End House is deeply committed to becoming an anti-racist organization.
In September 2018, we began working with the Organizational Equity Practice of Trinity Boston Connects, who conducted an organizational assessment, met with senior leadership regularly, and hosted monthly meetings with all staff to begin to address issues of racial equity. They also facilitated a workshop for our Board of Directors and Board of Advisors to introduce them to this critical work.
Our development as an anti-racist organization has been marked by the following milestones and actions to date:
Equity and Social Justice Team (ESJ Team)
Launched in November 2019, the ESJ Team is a group of West End House employees whose mission is to make sustainable and positive change at the West End House. Seven staff members serve on the ESJ Team, representing all areas of the organization, and serve a minimum of a 1-year term. The goal of the ESJ Team is to create a safe space for open communication, equal exchange of ideas, and opportunities for continuous growth and learning. The team meets biweekly to advance change within the organization through communication, information-sharing, and accountability actions. The ESJ Team is designed to help West End House leadership maintain responsiveness and accountability for enacting and maintaining equitable policies and practices across the organization.
Formation of the BIPOC Caucus
As our country and city erupted in protest over the murder of George Floyd, our community identified the need to go deeper to enact our commitment to ending racism. The need to create spaces for staff members to process the impact of racism in their lives and work came into sharp focus, and we began the process of caucusing by race beginning with our monthly staff meeting in June 2020. Many important areas of needed growth and change were identified, and the BIPOC caucus developed recommendations around the need for improving understanding and personal reflection on race, inequity, and racism. Caucusing continues to help our community listen and hear from all members of our community in a more racially equitable way.
30-Day Anti-Racism Challenge
A key, public action of the BIPOC caucus and ESJ Team was to develop the 30-Day Anti-Racism Challenge, a self-learning resource for white people and BIPOC. We promoted this challenge heavily on social media and featured it as an action step immediately following our June 11, 2020 Virtual Annual Celebration event, distributing it to all 500+ attendees and asking them to share it widely.
White Caucus Work
Over the summer of 2020, West End House convened its white caucus for mandatory weekly meetings in which they completed the 30-day challenge collectively and discussed the resources and articles in the challenge. They reflected on power dynamics, their privilege, and the ways in which they contribute to white supremacy culture. This work continued in the fall and winter with anti-racism readings of the week that white caucus colleagues discussed in pairings.
West End House Votes Campaign
In advance of the 2020 election, the BIPOC caucus and ESJ Team identified voter registration and mobilization as an area of significant concern for many in BIPOC communities. West End House Votes! aimed to raise awareness about voting as a way to use your voice – and to encourage young people to understand their voting rights as they approach the age of 18. The campaign included public awareness activities through our website and in social media, and engaging with youth through discussions and video projects about the importance and power of voting.
As part of our commitment to racial equity, we are providing opportunities for staff to advance their knowledge and to build better practices of anti-racist work. Two members of our senior leadership team, CEO Andrea Howard and Chief Impact Officer Jenny Nute have participated in Trinity Boston Connects’ Racial Equity Leaders Learning Circle (RELLC) and are working to apply their learning to our day-to-day practices. We are also providing support so that other staff can participate in Trinity Boston Connects’ Emerging Leaders Circle cohort. Our ESJ Team has developed a professional development policy to improve our internal practices with an equity lens.
Establishment of Racial Equity Fund at the West End House
In December 2020, the West End House Board of Directors voted to establish a racial equity fund seeded with $125,000 in unrestricted funding. This fund demonstrates a significant investment in racial equity as a top priority of our organization, especially in comparison to the size of our annual operating budget and the size of our endowment. The fund will be used to advance our racial equity work and we will work to grow the fund over time as well.
Anti-Racist Action Plan
As we continue to advance our anti-racist work, youth and caregiver voices will guide our priorities. Collectively, we will identify areas for growth and improvement in addressing racial inequities. We will be posting updates to our anti-racist action plan on an ongoing basis, and publicizing our efforts both internally and externally.