There is a lot of talk right now about terms like equity and inclusiveness. That’s a good thing. The moment demands it. But not just this moment. And while we need to talk with one another, we also need to take meaningful action where we can.
Action centers our efforts at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. For us, ideas of equity and inclusiveness are not trendy topics. They are concepts that are part of our reason for being and have been so for more than 40 years.
Because equity is more than an idea, it’s love in action. Guided by conviction in shared potential and purpose, it calls upon each of us to respond to the greatest challenges facing our era, not only those exacerbated by the global pandemic but also those with roots of timeworn injustices stretching back generations. To do so requires tolerance, compassion, and empathy. The more we can tap into this force for good, the more we can realize the possibilities inherent in bringing about a community where everyone belongs and thrives.
By investing charitable funds in organizations that are helping people of all viewpoints, perspectives, and needs, philanthropy is and always has been about creating access to opportunities and making our community stronger by doing so.
To start the year, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County announced recipients of our inaugural Equity and Access competitive grant cycle supporting five local nonprofits whose work promotes equitable access in education and health care. This support goes into programs throughout Sarasota County that provide trauma-informed care and healing, housing and financial stability, parenting education for inmates at Sarasota County Jail, discussions about racial inequities within the arts, and even positive redirection to youth through restorative justice.
The decision to fund these programs was made by a diverse group of community volunteers and Community Foundation staff members. Together, they reviewed applications that offered meaningful opportunities for our community. Their mix of ages, experiences, and personal beliefs were not similar, but they did reach consensus, knowing the purpose of the work of these nonprofits and the grant opportunity was to build a better, more equitable community. I share this “behind the scenes” peek because it is important to recognize ways, both big and small, that we can work together and collaborate in meaningful ways because of, not in spite of, our differences.
As we continue to build our community with and for one another, remember that equity is more than an outcome; it is a strategy requiring a stable foundation for the long journey ahead. While we cannot always reduce opposition or ambivalence to prejudice, we must create spaces that give people permission to be uncomfortable and vulnerable without fear so that genuine discussions and breakthroughs can occur. Disagreement encourages us to hold disparate views of the world we know and the one we can imagine and puts us on the path to unity, and this takes unshakable courage.
Long-lasting change is possible only if we are brave enough to realize it, only if we are brave enough to put our love for humanity into action, together.
As always, I welcome you to contribute your thoughts to this conversation. What are actionable ways you are taking to embrace and expand equity in our community? Send me a personal message. We’re listening and learning, right alongside you.