Poverty & Safety Net
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There is no Other anymore: our community engagement and racial equity work

Zulma Zabala
Senior Fellow, Community and Racial Equity
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June 6, 2022
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Ninety days ago, I left my role as President-CEO of the historical and effective East End Neighborhood House. After two decades working in the Buckeye neighborhood, the assignment became clear, I wanted to elevate the voice, value, and engagement of our community to be part of policy and advocacy efforts. The opportunity to serve as a Senior Fellow for Community and Racial Equity with the Center for Community Solutions fit the call perfectly.

 After two decades working in the Buckeye neighborhood, the assignment became clear, I wanted to elevate the voice, value, and engagement of our community to be part of policy and advocacy efforts.

I began with check-ins, I call my one-on-one with community members, known and new friends, “Charlas,” these are meant to be familiar chats where we share our truths without judgment. The goal is to define where we are, and how to move towards the best solutions around the things we care for collectively. Sharing these truths with the community will be an ongoing effort, but we will also check-in between dialogues, and invite you into what we have learned. These moments will allow us to define possible solutions.

Meeting people where they are

Our neighbors tell us that while they appreciate the accessibility and immediacy of our efforts of communication via social media, there are serious setbacks with this approach. COVID has clearly revealed that not all are able to access the internet for awareness and immediacy. The community exclaims, “please do not give up on coming to us in person, and into our communities. Let us know who the advocates are, share with us the findings and efforts so that we too can engage in action. We need your ongoing presence!”

 Policies in areas adjacent to the organization’s mission are now becoming a focus because these also affect the lives of our team members: how do we show up as a team in this new reality?

Simultaneously, my new team members, who have actively been in advocacy for communities, have themselves experienced the value of also becoming a more diverse team over the past few years. Now policies and advocacy the team works on not only affect “other” or “vulnerable” communities but our team members. When an elected official asserted that maternal health issues are not that serious in their city because it only affects Black women, my colleague—a white woman, a mother who is pregnant—urgently responds on behalf of her Black Women co-workers. Policies in areas adjacent to the organization’s mission are now becoming a focus because these also affect the lives of our team members: how do we show up as a team in this new reality?

Policy and partnerships in the neighborhoods

We at the Center for Community Solutions continue in our historical commitment to advocacy, but we are also aware that the journey may be redefined. I am ready and committed to my new role and help our team travel unchartered paths. We have made critical strides on behalf of seniors, parents, and children in our policy work. We will be coming to you via digital and neighborhood visits to let YOU know how our work can be applied in our communities, to reach our neighbors where they are. We also know of new areas where our systems and leadership could do better, and we will leverage those relationships when appropriate.

 There are organizations, leaders, and advocates right in the neighborhood that we want to partner with to help the collective reach the best outcomes.

There are organizations, leaders, and advocates right in the neighborhood that we want to partner with to help the collective reach the best outcomes. I will be calling you, stopping by and on occasions hosting a session for our shared efforts to do better for the value of the Us. If you do not know, my name is Zulma and I am coming with my Ubuntu spirit to let you know that what matters to you, matters to me. Together we can do more. If you do know me, you already know… I am because we are, so let’s go! Ubuntu!

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