Making Hampton Roads a more equitable community for all

by | Nov 29, 2021 | Other News

What is racial equity?

The phrase has been in the news, in communities, and in corporations with increasing attention of late.

Simply put, racial equity means acknowledging that racism exists, working together to fix problems caused by discrimination, ensuring People of Color have fair access to resources, and creating a more inclusive community with opportunity for all.

Racial equity can be seen in the work of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. The Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council is helping to administer a program called the In[HEIR]itance project—a national organization that uses the arts to promote cross-cultural awareness.

The Federation secured a grant for this work from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, which was awarded in partnership with Virginia Humanities. The local project includes Hands United Building Bridges, or HUBB, a diverse group of interfaith leaders. HUBB is hosting several community conversations and public playmaking workshops that will culminate in a special theatrical production.

As the region’s largest provider of chartable grants and scholarships, the community foundation believes racial equity is critical in helping Hampton Roads to thrive.

In 2019, the community foundation’s board of directors adopted a Racial Equity statement to highlight the importance of this work, to better align its grantmaking and scholarships programs for equitable outcomes, to host courageous conversations about race and the history of race, and to provide leadership through collaborative action to address racism in Hampton Roads.

Prior to the adoption of the statement, the community foundation began looking inwardly at its policies and practices around equity, as well as its engagement with residents and community partners. Since then, HRCF has:

• Worked with a consultant to coach staff and board members about racial equity issues, and to create a Racial Equity statement and plan;

• Hosted the annual Black Philanthropy Month celebration for the last four years to amplify Black voices often left out of traditional philanthropy;

• Expanded grant guidelines to require nonprofits to report racial demographic data on their boards, staff, and clients in order to get a more comprehensive picture of the community, who HRCF helps, and opportunities for support;

• Commissioned the Giving Black® Hampton Roads study to learn about Black philanthropists and giving trends; and

• Joined diverse community organizations, including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Coastal Virginia, Asian Business Association of Hampton Roads, Black BRAND, and others.

The work continues with trainings, conversations, research projects, and ongoing assessment of the organization’s internal practices and external actions.

Hampton Roads can achieve greater success when people from all backgrounds come together to tackle important community issues. To be sure, racial equity is a journey. We are learning more day by day.

Vivian Oden is the vice president for equity and inclusion at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. She leads the foundation’s efforts to make Hampton Roads a more equitable and inclusive place with opportunity for all.

-Vivian Oden