White People – We Need You to Get Yourselves Together

20180412_235337

Picture of a tree and a log at a serene lake. Photo credit Erin Okuno

Editor’s Note: Persian New Year, Nowruz, is on Friday, 20 March. A new day. Happy Nowruz.


We’re in a global pandemic – coronavirus, aka COVID19. We’ll survive this, but how we do is up to how we behave. White people, I need you to get yourselves together. In the past few days, I’ve seen people come together, and I’ve also experienced and heard from friends and colleagues of ugly behavior coming out. Now is not the time to check that white supremacy and figure out how to be better community members. We will need to think in the collective interest to get through this as unscathed as possible.

What we’re seeing isn’t new. It may feel new because many of us haven’t experienced the shut down of society on this level. Some of us remember 9/11, our grandparents or great grandparents may remember the Flu of 1918, and other country changing events. These disruptions bring out good, but they also show where white supremacy, bigotry, and hate come through.

White people, you don’t have all the answers

COVID19 is happening quickly and changes are coming rapidly. With every new development, people are quick to give an opinion or feel like they must comment. You don’t have to say something just because you can. It is ok to sit back and follow others at times.

You also don’t have to tell others what to do. Resist that urge, please do. The other day I took my kids to a lake to get a little fresh air. An older white lady yelled at my kids to stop throwing rocks into the lake because they were scaring the ducks. It wasn’t her place to do so – the ducks were fine. I told her to stop and mind her own business, to which she gave me a look of “really you’re telling me what to do?” This interaction ruined our outing. She might do this everyday, but because of COVID19 and social distancing, I think we’re all more sensitive and need to remember to behave accordingly. If she had minded her own business and held her opinion to herself and resisted the urge to show off her whiteness we could have had a nice afternoon.

We are all trying to be helpful and find our roles to play in the new reality. Right now isn’t the time to make it about you and being the center of attention. Communities of color are also organizing. Many community leaders are hearing directly from families about what they need – food, money for utilities, jobs, and rent. These emerging needs are hard to deal with and we will need white allies to step in and help – our leaders of color need to be the ones directing it. They have the trust of their communities and know how to lead. Also, don’t make busy work for us. If your organization is still running or has remote staff, let them lead – don’t make busy work thinking you are doing it on behalf of serving the public.

Round up your own people

Right now would be a great time for white people to call in their own people. A Taiwanese American friend told me about being in an elevator with an older white couple. The man kept patting his pocket and giving him a weird look. My friend stood on the side to give the couple space. The man muttered “Chinese virus,” the same phrase Trump used when talking about Coronavirus. The blatant racism needs to be called out by other white people. The person saying Chinese virus to my friend probably said it to others who didn’t call him out for his racism. My friend didn’t want to escalate the situation so he let the comment slide, who knows what was in the pocket he was patting.

Along with rounding up people, can we also encourage everyone, pocs as well, to stop gathering and visiting with people. Now is the time to hunker down and stay home. Today I took my kid for a walk, we avoided people on the walk, but still saw so many others who were gathering with friends. I know people who are hit by this virus and it is nasty, do your part by staying home. Read all of those books by authors of color you’ve been meaning to read, listen to this list of podcast by people of color, get into a Korean drama (Heidi has many recommendations), please stay home.

While I’m on the topic of staying home, please stay out of Hawaii. It annoys me so much to read how people are seeing this as a vacation and flying to Hawaii (or other places) because all of a sudden their kids are out of school, they can work remotely, and airfares are cheap. Really, do you want to be the asshole who takes this virus somewhere else? That is peak privilege to say because you can, you will do something. Stay home for the social good — think about the collective before yourselves.


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Reading for Pride & Justice 2020

20200312_225231_0000Birthday Book Drive 2020

It has been a doozy of a week. COVID-19, aka coronavirus, has tested our humanity, resolve, and resources. Many of us are working remotely, school is out for six weeks in parts of Washington, and many are concerned for friends and family. I have no new words to offer about the present situation, except to say take care of each other and yourselves.

What I will share this week is the 2020 Birthday Book Drive, Reading for Pride & Justice. Last year my friend Carrie and I decided to celebrate our February birthdays by hosting a book drive. A third grader wrote in their thank you card to us we’re doing it all wrong — we’re supposed to get gifts on our birthday. The kid was thankful we birthday-ed wrong and loved the books. While it is traditional to get gifts for one’s birthday, we decided we didn’t need gifts for ourselves and instead asked our friends to share books by poc authors or about disabilities to donate to several public schools in our community. Our friends and family are wonderful and donated over 170 books, that went to two high schools and three elementary schools in South Seattle.

Why Reading for Pride & Justice – Why Books?

This year Carrie and I came up with a theme to help make this year’s book drive a little different and to focus the book selection a little differently than last year. We landed on a theme of Changemakers and looked for titles along these lines for our wishlist. The changemaker theme allowed us to focus some of the books and ensure we were digging deeper into finding new titles to share with schools.

Books by authors of color and books about disabilities are important “mirrors and windows” for children to learn about the world around them with compassion, empathy, and understanding. The books in my kid’s school library are well-loved and many of the popular titles, especially the graphic novels, are held together with tape and the spines so frayed the titles are impossible to read. There are also some poc authored books or books about disabilities, but it takes hunting to find them. By donating more quality books by pocs and about disabilities we want to increase the odds that students will find themselves in the books, or their teachers will have a new resource to teach with.

This year we worked to make sure many of the titles on our wishlist would be appealing to kids. We requested a lot of graphic novels by authors of color or about disabilities; these are often gateway books for many readers. We wanted to make sure we donated books kids would want to read, not academic books that would just sit on shelves unread. We aimed for diversity in race and ethnicity, disabilities, language, etc. For the books about disabilities, we prioritized first-person narratives, nothing that perpetuates inspiration porn, and we avoided books about death.

Image may contain: 5 people, text

A thank you tweet

A special thank you to our friends, colleagues, supporters, and family who donated to the book drive. We are so lucky to have you in our community and your generosity to this project makes it special. When we delivered the books to schools everyone we met ohhhed and ahhed over the books. Hands immediately went into the crates of books and people were pulling them out to see what was in there. Becca, a friend and second/third-grade teacher, said she didn’t even get a chance to shelve the books since her third-graders saw the books and started reading them.

We’re sharing the booklist so you can help to find new titles to read. Order these from your favorite POC bookseller, independent bookstore, request them from the library, and make library purchase suggestions if they don’t have it in the catalog. Most of all, share them with young people in your life.

2020 Reading For Pride & Justice Book List

Title Author Category (Notations are my best guess)
Lead From the Outside Abrams, Stacey POC – African American/Black
The Poet X Acevedo, Elizabeth POC – Latinx
One Person No Vote Anderson, Carol POC
We Are Not Yet Equal Anderson, Carol POC
Dear America Antonio Vargas, Jose POC – Latinx
She Came to Slay Armstrong Dunbar POC – African American
Never Caught the Story of Ona Judge, YA Edition Armstrong Dunbar, Erica and Kathleen van Celeve POC – African American/Black
Sosu’s Call Asare, Meshack POC / Disability
Brazen Bagieu, Penelope POC
El Deafo* Bell, Cece Disability
Super Sorda, El Deafo (Spanish) Bell, Cece Disability
Courage to Soar Biles, Simone POC – African American/Black
Emergent Strategy brown, adrienne marie POC
The Pretty One Brown, Keah Disability / POC – Black
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin Bryant, Jen Disability
Laughing at my Nightmare Burcaw, Shane Disability
I Am Enough* Byers, Grace POC – Black / African American
72 Hour Hold Campbell, Bebe Moore POC – Black/ African American, Disability
When the Beat was Born, DJ Kool Herc And the Creation of Hip Hop Carrick Hill, Laban POC – Black
Pashmina Chanani, Nidhi POC
We Gon’ Be Alright – Notes on Race and Resegregation* Chang, Jeff POC – Asian / Pacific Islander
Freedom Soup Charles, Tami POC
Major Taylor Cline-Ransome, Lesa POC – African American
The Water Dancer Coates, Ta-Nehisi POC – African American/Black
The Truth as told by Mason Buttle Connor, Leslie Disability
Eloquent Rage Cooper, Brittney POC – African American/Black
Firebird Copeland, Misty POC – African American/Black
Misty Copeland, Life in Motion – Young Readers Edition Copeland, Misty POC – Black / African American
Harriet Tubman, Demon Slayer I & II Crownson, David POC – African American/Black
Claire of the Sea Light Danticat, Edwidge POC
The Labyrinth’s Archivist: A Broken Cities Novella Day, Al-Mohamed Disability
The Day Abuelo Got Lost de Anda, Diane Disability
Mixed Me Diggs, Taye POC – African American
Never Caught the Story of Ona Judge, YA Edition Dunbar, Erica POC
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne POC – Native American
Geek Love Dunn, Katherine Disability
Milo’s Museum Elliott, Zetta POC – African American/Black
Freshwater Emezi, Akwaeke POC – Black
Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen* Florence, Debbi Michiko POC – Asian
Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper* Florence, Debbi Michiko POC – Asian
Like a Mother* Garbes, Angela POC – Filipinx
Rooted in the Earth Glave, Dianne POC – African American/Black
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess Green, Shari Disability
Real Friends Hale, Shaonnon Disability
Autobiography of Malcolm X Haley, Alex POC – African American/Black
The Truths We Hold Harris, Kamala POC
New Power Heimans, Jeremy and Henry Timms
Imagine Herrera, Juan Felipe POC – Latinx
The Reason I Jump Higashida, Naoki POC – Asian / Disability – Autism
Como Pez En El Arbol Hunt, Lynda Mullaly Disability
(Don’t) Call me Crazy, 33 Voices

start the conversation about mental health

Jensen, Kelly Disability
Remember Balloons Jessie Oliveros, Dana Wulfekotte Disability
The Magical Monkey King Mischief in Heaven Ji-Li Jiang POC – Asian
The Parker Inheritance Johnson, Varian POC – African American / Black
How to be an Antiracist Kendi, Ibram X. POC – African American/Black
Amina’s Voice Khan, Hena POC – Middle Eastern
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns – A Muslim Book of Colors* Khan, Hena POC – Muslim
when they call you a terrorist – a black lives matter memoir Khan-Cullors, Patrisse and Asha Bandele POC – African American/Black
Amulet* Kibuishi, Kazu POC – Asian
Miracle Creek Kim, Angie POC
Braiding Sweetgrass* Kimmerer, Robin Wall POC – Native American
Go Show the World, a Celebration of Indigenous Heroes Kinew, Wab POC – Native American
Inside Out & Back Again Lai, Thanhha POC
Bridge of Flowers* Lakshimi Piepzna-Samarashinha, Leah POC – Disability (This is from a micro-press with tons of wonderful titles)
Green Lantern – Legacy* Lê, Minh POC -Asian (First ever Asian Green Lantern)
March 1, 2, 3* Lewis, John POC – African American
The Year of the Dog Lin, Grace POC – Asian
When Adrian Became a Brother* Lukoff POC illustrator / LGBTQ
Ten Ways not to Commit Suicide McDaniels, Darryl POC – African American/Black, Disability
Merci Suarez Changes Gears Medina, Meg POC – Latinx
Where Are You From Mendez, Ymile Saied POC – Latinx
Redefining Realness Mock, Janet POC – African American/Black
Sick Kids in Love Moskowitz, Hannah Disability
The Proudest Blue Muhammad, Ibtihaj POC – Muslim
Proud, Living my American Dream Muhammad, Ibtihaj POC – Muslim
Fish in a Tree Mullaly Hunt, Lynda Disability
A is for Activist Nagara, Innosanto POC
Counting on Community Nagara, Innosanto POC
We Should All Be Feminists Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda POC – Black
Sulwe Nyong’o, Lupita POC – African American/Black
Becoming* Obama, Michelle POC – African American/Black
Shuri, Black Panther Okorafor, Nnedi POC – African American/Black
The Remembering Balloons* Oliveros, Jessie Disability
So You Want to Talk About Race Oluo, Ijeoma POC – African American/Black
There There Orange, Tommy POC – Native American
Anger is a Gift Oshiro, Mark Disability
The Witch Boy Ostertag, Molly Knox
Hawking Ottaviani, Jim Disability
Wonder & 365 Days of Wonder Palacio, Disability
The Astonishing Color of Afer Pan, Emily, X.R. POC – Asian
Nya’s Long Walk — A Step at a Time Park, Linda Sue POC — Asian / Black / Immigrant
A Single Shard Park, Linda Sue POC – Asian, Korean
Parachute Parker, Danny and Matt Ottley Disability – Anxiety
A Different Pond* Phi, Bao POC – Asian
Patina Reynolds, Jason POC – African American
As Brave as You Reynolds, Jason POC – African American/Black
Jake Makes a world, Jacob Lawrence, a Young Artist in Harlem* Rhodes-Pitt, Sharifa POC – African American/Black
Juliet Takes a Breath Rivera, Gabby POC – Latinx
M is for Melanin* Rose, Tiffany POC – Black / African American
Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories Sakade, Florence POC – Asian
Gang of Four* Santos, Bob and Gary Iwamoto POC – Cross racial
You Failed Us Savage, Azure POC
Tea with Milk Say, Allen POC – Asian
Silent Days, Silent Dreams Say, Allen Disability
American Journal Smith, Tracy K. POC – Black
Pasando páginas Sotomayor, Sonia POC – Latinx
My Beloved World Sotomayor, Sonia POC – Latinx
Just Mercy, YA edition Stevenson, Bryan POC – African American/Black
Chicken with Plums Strapi, Marjane POC – Middle East
Yayoi Kusama From Here to Eternity Suzuki, Sarah POC – Asian / Disability
They Called Us Enemy* Takei, George POC – Asian
The Opposite of Fate Tam, Amy POC – Asian
I Love My Hair Tarpley, Natasha Anastasia POC – African American/Black
Guts Telgemeier, Raina Disability – anxiety
Ghosts* Telgemier, Raina Disability
Baby Sitters Club – The Truth about Stacey Telgemier, Raina Disability – Diabetes
My First 50 Tigringna Words* Tesfamariam, Elinor K. POC – Black
The Hate You Give Thomas, Angie POC – African American
Down These Mean Streets Thomas, Piri POC – Latinx
How I Became a Ghost Tingle, Tim POC – Native American
Stone River Crossing* Tingle, Tim POC – Native American
Separate is Never Equal Tonatiuh, Duncan POC – Latinx
Ojichan’s Gift* Uegaki, Chieri and Genevieve Simms POC- Asian, Disability – memory loss, aging
Trickster* Various authors POC – Native American
My Fate According to the Butterfly Villanueva, Gail D. POC – Asian Filipinx
Magic Ramen, the story of Momofuku Ando* Wang, Andrea POC – Asian
Stargazing Wang, Jen POC – Asian, Disability
Other Words for Home Warga, Jasmine POC
We Speak for Ourselves Watkins, D. POC – African American/Black
Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer (Note: It has the n-word and b-word in it) Weatherford, Carole Boston POC – African American/Black
Home for Chinese New Year: A Story Told in English and Chinese* Wei Jie, Xu Can POC – Asian, bilingual
The Collected Schizophrenias Weijun Wang, Esme Disability / POC
Red at the Bone Woodson, Jacqueline POC – African American/Black
Malala, My Story of Standing Up for Girls Rights Yousafzai, Malala POC – Muslim
I am Malala Yousafzai, Malala POC – Muslim
Malala’s Magic Pencil* Yousafzai, Malala POC – Muslim
Yasmin in Charge* Faruqi, Saadia POC – Muslim
Krip Hop Disability
Animals — Braille Disability / bilingual (Braille)

*Erin’s recommendation

Thank you to everyone who supported the project:

Thank you Erica, Elinor, Ubax, Stacy, Makeba, Kristina, Tracy, Sherri, Paola, LouAnn, Rebekah, Chandra, Brooke, Sarah B., Hassan, Fred, Debra, Rose, Stephanie, Selma, Equity Matters, Heidi, Tina, Maggie, Leslie, Dan B., Renee, Hannah, Jon, Stefanie, emily, CiKeithia, Ryan, Ivan, and Emi.


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Love in a time of Coronavirus

20200305_223945_0000This week has been a test of the notion of holding multiple truths and various forms of love. The recent news of COVID-19/coronavirus has forced many people to think hard and to consider a lot of information. Message boards are filled with threads asking for opinions. Families are having to make choices about whether to send children to school or keep them home. Organizations are considering whether to keep or cancel events, shifting services or keep them as is. All of this is mind-boggling. We make choices based on what information we have, which often feels incomplete and inadequate.

I live in the epicenter of the US outbreak, Seattle WA. The 24-hr news cycle is full of unparalleled stories – another person confirmed ill, another death, events canceled, hospitals overwhelmed, and in many cases people trying to continue to go on with life.

Even with the uncertainty love is coming through. A friend posted how she’s checking in on her parents who live a state away and asking them to prioritize their health by staying home and if they do go out just to go out for walks around the block.

Another friend shared how her father was excited to see her when she got home, but then he told her “Wait!” and then wiped her down with a disinfectant before she came into the house – extreme, albeit wet, love. My friend rolled her eyes a bit at her dad.

In other places, community love is showing up by people saying “Wait, just because it is a crisis doesn’t mean you get to bypass community input.” People are standing up to ensure justice doesn’t get trampled on despite these unprecedented times.

Educators, medical professionals, and anyone who continues to serve their community in a community capacity are showing love. They are recognizing a need to keep going despite the unknown.

Multiple Truths

The week has made me think about how we can hold multiple truths at the same time. I can recognize the outbreak is in my area, but also recognize there are many ways to be cautious, concern, but move forward. The number of infected people continues to climb and will do so since there are better testing and surveillance, and while that is scary maybe it is also a good thing since people are receiving medical care.

It is true the Chinese and Asian communities are being hit harder with the outbreak. My colleagues in the Asian and Chinese communities have reported outright racism and discrimination their clients and friends have faced. A friend who lives in New Jersey and is Korean American told me a contractor who came over to her house and asked which Chinese restaurant she liked. My friend retorted “Oh, honey chill I don’t have coronavirus, but thanks for caring.” Would he have asked that of a non-Asian, probably not — racial profiling. It is also true we need people to visit Asian owned restaurants and stores.

Business is down as more and more companies are telling their employees to work remotely, and while this is prudent for many it also means hourly workers who rely upon others having full employment will be hurt harder (e.g. baristas, event staff, restaurant staff, etc.).

These multiple truths are causing cognitive dissonence for many of us. It is scary but we can also be ok with a little scared if we show each other some compassion and love.

Who Needs More Love

We also need to consider who needs more support right now. Advice coming from public health is to encourage people over the age of 60 to limit their exposure to groups. While this may be prudent for their physical health isolation and loneliness can be dangerous for seniors. Check-in on seniors in ways that keep them physically safe, but attend to their mental health needs.

Right now, a lot of the information coming out of government agencies is in English only. If you are multi-lingual help to get accurate information out to language-based communities so they understand what is happening and how to their families safe. At the same time use your advocacy power to encourage government to translate documents and provide interpretation services. My friend James also reminded me that the groups who can get translated materials are not the ones we need to worry about, we need to really make sure we’re reaching out to the groups that are so small translators and interpreters are very hard to find – they are the ones who are often the most isolated.

Love is possible.


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Hey Orgs, It’s Time to Get Real About Racial Equity

By CiKeithia Pugh

For Erin’s birthday I’m giving the gift of a blog post this week. Put your feet up and eat some cake, you deserve it my friend!

“Where’s the Prank?” meme

Let’s cut to the chase, lately I’ve had some moments where I think I must be on a soon to be canceled tv prank show. You know the ones where something wild is happening and everyone is in on the joke but you? The camera zooms in close to show the confusion on your face. Everyone is acting as if this is normal behavior and your brain is trying to process what is really happening. Finally, people break character and the hidden cameras come out. Surprise!

Well, that is how I would describe some recent experiences. The difference is I keep looking around for the cameras and someone to tell me this is all a joke, but it never happens. Orgs it’s time to get real about racial equity. At this point, you’ve read blogs, participated in workshops, and even purchased books to deepen your understanding so you are officially out of excuses… it is time to do the work.

Show me the money– Allocate dollars to put your commitments into action. As a reminder, if organizationally you are pointing to line items that cover translation, focus groups, and interpretation that’s access. Your money also needs to be spent in ways that address and undo systemic and historical racism in your organizations. Access is not Equity.

Be explicit and name racial equity- Be honest and say what you are doing and what you are not. I’ve seen my fair share of glossy posters, websites and position papers with race neutral language. If you are leading for racial equity, then name it. Not ready? Then wait for the community to call you out on it and you can explain your actions or lack thereof once confronted. Keep racial equity out of your mouth if it’s not happening.

Stop defaulting to BIPOC staff to be your unpaid racial equity consultants- BIPOC staff are not your consultants. Disproportionately we carry the weight of racial equity in organizations. We are expected to not only do the work and show results, but also teach our white colleagues at the same time. Racial equity is ALL our jobs.

Kill the Token Marketing Campaign- Stop putting BIPOC staff on your flyers, websites and parading us in front of crowds as evidence that racial equity is a value. Community knows we are underrepresented in the organization and most often hold no institutional/positional power to really make change. These are self-serving activities that are drain BIPOC staff and in some cases even cause harm. Remember we own our images not you.

No Superheroes Allowed– I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you view your work as “saving” BIPOC communities you have it all wrong. Save the cape for a future costume party. BIPOC communities will continue to do what we have always done in order to dismantle systemic racism. BIPOC communities are resilient.

What to do – It is time to put all of the training, reading, and learning into work. This isn’t a tv show with a script or even editing to find the best moments, it is real life and it is now. Get into the game and stop with the tv show pranks – you’ve got what it takes now do the real work.


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White People as Individuals

Note: No blog post next week for mid-winter/mid-Feb break. Feel free to check the archives and catch up on old posts during the break. You can also visit our friends at Nonprofit AF if you want to read some other fun posts.


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Artwork display: Welcome to Entitlement, seen at Seattle Univ, May 2018

I’ve been sitting on this topic for a few weeks. Heidi suggested it as a topic and I’ve been marinating on it. As a person of color, and especially as an Asian I’ve been socialized to think about the group and the collective. As a child in classrooms and at home the messages were: “how will this affect others?,” “what does the group want to do?”. All of these messages shaped me into the person I am today. These messages were engrained in being Asian, think about others – group needs. Don’t get me wrong, my individual needs were met and I don’t feel I sacrificed from having to think about others.

It wasn’t until I was older and moved to Seattle that I understood where individualism shows up. I currently work in education advocacy. In so many of the hot button education topics individualism shows up. People show up and say: “My kid isn’t being served because they are super smart and get bored in a regular classroom,” “My child can’t excel because of this ‘inequity’,” “I really need this…” In the advocacy world we coach and encourage people to use personal stories, stories make abstract concepts stick. Yet there is a point where this individualism isn’t good for advancing racial equity – we forget that there are many others who need more and our individual needs aren’t always the greatest inequities. Those often needing more are silent.

“The white women are very comfortable”

A few years ago, I was in sitting with CiKeithia. She leaned over to me and whispered, “The white women are very comfortable here.” A white women had just noticed a buzzing sound and interrupted the flow of the presentation mentioned it to everyone. She wasn’t obnoxious or loud about mentioning it, but she felt comfortable pointing it out to the entire meeting. The room went with it because we have been socialized to allow white people comfortable and for their needs to be prioritized. Many of the POCs noticed it as well, but we didn’t interrupt or call attention to it since it was in the background and there was a meeting going on.

A friend, who is a racial equity trainer, mentioned in her training sessions how a white person will interrupt her to ask to have the activity changed because they don’t like a piece of it. Another friend is a high school teacher and told me how one of her students informed her that he changed the assignment because he didn’t want to do it the way she assigned it. He threw a high school version of a tantrum when she said he couldn’t just make changes without checking with her first. Never mind that both of my friends, as educators carefully thought through their lesson designs and thought about how to reach the largest number of people and supporting the group. As my other friend Carrie says: “When we design for everyone, we design for no one.” These stories illustrate how people think about themselves as individuals and not seeing themselves as part of a collective with greater needs over themselves.

White culture is built upon individual accomplishments and praising the individual, and at the same time denial or separation when convenient. Recently listening to NPR I heard an interview with a voter from Iowa. Towards the end of the interview Anita, the interviewee, said “Well, I don’t think I’m racist, but, sometimes, I say the wrong thing. … But no, I don’t think I’m racist because I know too many people of different backgrounds.” What I heard was “me” and seeing herself as an individual versus associating with others who have similar beliefs – a lot of proving her individualism is important.

White people it is ok for you to be uncomfortable for a while. You don’t need everything tailored to your individual needs. You don’t need to speak in every meeting or to speak to fill silence. It is ok to be part of the collective and not fight to be seen.

As an exercise to help you notice this dynamic, the next time you listen or watch the news gauge how many stories about white people as individuals, then look at the stories about people of color and how they are portrayed. The recent news around the coronavirus is an example – the collective of Chinese people vs. the individual European or Americans (often white) who are being interviewed.

In meetings how often do white people ask for changes and what are the changes? Are POCs as comfortable speaking up and asking and suggesting changes?

At another time I’ll explore how POCs can and should be seen as individuals and not always as a group. Before I write that one though I need to practice naming my own needs as an individual – Heidi another get together soon? I need some help figuring it out. You can practice naming your needs too and then we’ll group accomodate.


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Perfectionism — We Can’t Wait for Perfect

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Student artwork at Rainier Beach High School, 2018-2019

I was planning to write about another topic tonight, but decided to pivot after spending an evening with students at Seattle University’s Masters for Not-for-Profit Leadership program – Redhawks! My colleague and friend Jon is teaching a class on public policy. In his opening, he talked about how public policy is never race-neutral and how we need to operationalize racial equity principles and values. Through our time tonight, I threw a lot of new information at the students. I watched as they processed the new information trying to make sense of a lot of new content very quickly and reflect on what it means to them personally and professionally (apologies for overwhelming you).

As we closed Jon talked about how important it is to not let perfectionism stop us. Jon explained the aim for perfectionism, is built on racist notions of white supremacy. I’ll elaborate: white people know best, white people have the answers, white people are in charge, therefore, their answers are perfect and all-knowing, white people can solve poc problems. I also told the students this shows up as internalized oppression for pocs – we feel the pressure of having to get things perfect because we only get one chance to be heard, we have to be perfect because we represent all pocs, we have to be perfect because our elders and ancestors never got the chances we have, we have to be perfect for other pocs (group over self), etc. All of this is false, white people aren’t perfect nor should they put that on themselves, and pocs we don’t have to be perfect all the time, that is too much pressure and unachievable.

Perfectionism is a Myth

What I forgot to tell the students is perfectionism in racial equity work is a myth. There is never a perfect time, a perfect way, perfect circumstance. Racism keeps conditions chaotic as to have the upper hand. This is what racism and chaos look like:

  • Fractured communities so we don’t have the perfect coalition and conditions to work together.
  • Using one community of color or a subset of people of color to create a wedge issue and point to that group as the ‘model-minority.’
  • Saying there isn’t enough time to do something to work towards an equitable outcome.
  • Rushing a process to keep the project on-time, thus leaving out people of color who aren’t already in the know.

We can use all of these and millions of other excuses to say we shouldn’t start something, but they are just the types of excuses allowing institutional and systemic racism to prevail.

The second myth I forgot to bust is perfectionism exists in racial equity work. We ALL mess up when doing racial equity work. It is impossible to be right all the time. If you’re doing equity and justice-based work you will screw up, and that is a good thing (sort of) – it means you are engaged, learning, trying, testing boundaries, and pushing boundaries. Race is an ever-changing construct. What was ‘right’ even five years ago is now outdated thinking and terminology. There is no perfection, instead, it is important to be a learner and to learn from mistakes.

The myth of perfectionism shouldn’t stop you from trying. I’ve seen and heard many people, especially white people, refuse to engage in conversations around race because they are afraid to say the wrong thing and called out. I’ve had to sit through many awkward and frustrating conversations because the presenter felt the weight of perfectionism and therefore kept the presentation too safe, refusing to name the problems we were supposed to be talking about. Instead, they use coded language, rather than saying words such as race, Black people, white supremacy, Asian, Latinx, Native American, disabled, etc. You may say the wrong thing, but if you are open to learning and not a total jerk many people will allow you grace, if they do practice humility and acknowledge your mistake.

Normalizing imperfection

A lot of racial equity work, coalition building, and community engagement work is iterative – building from itself and correcting errors and omissions along the way. Imperfections, and correcting the imperfections as we move forward is better than not having any work done.

This isn’t an excuse for mainstream organizations and white people to plow ahead with work saying, “I have to do something and I’ll ask for forgiveness later.” As an example, I once saw a white presenter do a Native land acknowledgment that went bad. The presenter hadn’t done their homework and was reading off a pre-written script. The presenter stumbled on the Tribal Nation’s names, didn’t acknowledge several non-Federally recognized Tribes from the area, and it was clear they were making the acknowledgment for woke-points. In this case, a little more time to get the acknowledgment perfect would have been well-spent.

At the end of Jon’s class tonight, I asked everyone to pause and write down one action they can take to act on their new knowledge. One student said he would make a donation to an organization he feels advocates effectively for causes he cares about, another person said he was reaching out and checking in on colleagues who are apprehensive about a work situation, and another person said she would use her position to influence whose voices are heard in an upcoming video her organization is producing with the hopes of including more Latinx and Spanish speaking voices. These small acts are important to creating a larger change. These doing somethings may not be perfect, but they are better than doing nothing. People of color can’t wait for perfection, we need justice now.

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Seattle U, Pigott

Special thanks to Jon and his class for welcoming me and sparking this post. Light the nonprofit world on fire — be the change we need in the sector. Go Redhawks!


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Advocacy Matters, But so does How We’re Treated

Editor’s note: February is Black and African American History Month. Take a moment to read and learn more about Black and African American history and voices. Here is one website: Black Youth Project. h/t Kaleb G. for sharing this website.


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Tracie Ching – Democracy is Solidarity, artwork from Amplifer Art

In my job, I spend a lot of time advocating. My advocacy doesn’t always look like traditional advocacy of being in legislative bodies, testifying, or rubbing elbows in the grand halls of the state capitol or city hall. I do this sometimes, admittedly not as much as I sometimes feel I should, but I don’t think we all need to prescribe to the same methods of advocacy that works for white people or white communities.

In our current system of advocacy loud voices that show up and repeatedly show up gain attention. This is a time-proven model in our US government. Persistence and numbers pays off. We currently know which communities benefits – privileged (I use this term loosely) communities who can afford time, resources, and voice to their causes. Who is left behind are communities furthest from justice – People of Color (POCs), people with disabilities, non-English literate/speaking, etc. The traditional systems of advocacy are not built for, designed for, nor even remotely tries to accommodate people of color.

Many POCs know how to navigate the system or we can easily learn the rules of the game. With a little reading, asking around, or watching others we can figure out how to sign up to testify, how to read bill summaries, how to reach our legislators. There are training programs that teach people how to do this, my organization even runs a successful train-the-advocate like program. But this doesn’t mean we are treated well or even heard.

Recently several friends, who are parents and seasoned advocates at the local level, decided to advocate against a Washington State bill that would privilege mostly white upper-class students. To prep for their day in Olympia (Washington’s state capitol) they did their research, I reached out to a friend who is a policy analyst and knows Olympia processes better than I do to find out how to sign in to testify, where to find the committee hearing room, and other tidbits of info. My friend even shared her cellphone number so they could text if they needed help navigating the capitol. They were set and eager to advocate.

They made the trek from Seattle to Olympia, about an hour to two hour drive, depending on traffic. The group found the room, signed in to testify, even found my friend who helped us prep. The legislators didn’t allow the public to testify, they said they ran out of time. They spent a lot of the committee meeting time hearing from other policymakers and professionals – all valid, but it was deeply disappointing for this set of parents who invested time and energy to show up. Their lived experiences and beliefs weren’t heard, they were told they could email in their testimony. They played the game and the game shut them out. Will they want to show up again in Olympia, I don’t know.

Policymakers of all sorts (this includes principals, administrators, executives, etc.) preach “come we need to hear from you,” “we want to know what you’re thinking,” those who show up get what they need, etc. Yes, AND when the game doesn’t love you back or hear you, how willing would you be to show up again and again and again if you’re constantly shut out.

Why I don’t play the advocacy game

Today over breakfast, I was telling a colleague, there are many times I refuse to ‘advocate’ or send people into advocacy situations where I know they won’t be centered, cared for, or will generally be uncomfortable. My street cred and reputation won’t last forever. There are many times I know we must be uncomfortable to create the changes. But at the same time, it is difficult for me to ask others to voluntarily put themselves into positions where they could be dismissed, have to fight to be heard, or tokenized. We need to change the way systems work to allow advocates, especially advocates of color, to be heard.

A while ago I told a friend I often decline to sit on task forces, nor will I ask people in my network to sit on most task forces. There is a predictable formula for task forces – they are over stacked with special interest (who fought to get a task force and issue raised), racial equity practices are not infused nor operationalized, and privilege takes over. I also tell people to take their expectations and lower it by 2/3, that will realistically be about what will be accomplished by the task force.

For POCs serving on mainstream task forces the burdens are even greater. We are often expected to serve as representatives of our communities and we are the token or ‘twoken’ voice of pocs. While serving on task forces is a great way to advocate for specific changes I’m not convinced it is the most effective way for pocs to make change. The current structures are not designed to support poc voices.

How to be advocates

In order to be more effective advocates, we need to change the structures and rules of engagement and bend them towards being poc friendly. A few months ago, I told a colleague-friend about my past task force experience and how I am very careful with who I suggest serve on task forces. I forgot about this conversation, but my friend was listening. When we caught up recently over a Korean deli lunch, she told me she recently put together a task force and purposefully reworked the recruitment mechanism to more fairly balance voices. She wanted to ensure poc voices would be included and to keep loud special interest groups from taking over; to achieve this she didn’t use traditional recruitment mechanisms and is testing having people apply in mix-cohort teams. By changing the system she’s creating new ways for advocates to enter the system. My advocacy without being an ‘advocate’ created a structural change – relational advocacy is important to create long term changes.

We also need our allies to realize the mainstream systems suck. Showing up and testifying for two-minutes at a board, committee, council meeting isn’t comfortable for many – nor is it a meaningful way to build dialogue and relationships. Being in relationships with communities is important. Advocacy doesn’t always have to be testifying, lobbying, or showing up at legislative bodies – these are important, but they are just one aspect of the overall advocacy arena.

Changing structures to hear more from people furthest from justice isn’t hard when you stop to think about it. It often means shifting prioritizes and saying no to certain things and yes to others.


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Lunar New Year – Your Fortune (un)Told

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Image by Vlad Vasnetsov from Pixabay

This weekend is Lunar New Year’s. Also known as Tết Nguyên Đán or shorten to Tết in Viet Nam (which I recently learned is the more correct spelling is in two words), Seollal (Korean), or Chinese New Years.

Over happy hour earlier this week Heidi said we need a funny post, or rather our friend Vu who blogs over at Nonprofit AF keeps telling us we’re too serious and need to be funnier. This week we will not be funny-funny like Vu, but we will give you your Lunar New Year’s fortunes, which are totally fake since I’m not an astrologer. The bigger point is sometimes we need friendly reminders to not take all of work seriously, culture influences the way we think, and for the Asian community Lunar New Year is a HUGE thing so enjoy it with us.

If you like this post thank Heidi for the idea, it was conceived over beer brewed by Metier, a Black-owned company. Check them out and ask for their beer at your local taphouse.

How the Zodiac kinda-sorta works

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Image by D. Aida from Pixabay

Since it is Lunar New Year season and it is the ONE Asian-y holiday on western calendars I make sure we capitalize on it. In my house, there’s been a steady stream of Chinese New Years and Lunar New Year picture books. Colleagues have talked about where to buy red envelopes, and the superstitions we need to uphold (no haircuts, eat and be merry, go to the Temple, etc.). To learn more about Lunar New Year, check out last year’s post.

The Chinese Zodiac has 12 animals assigned to it with each animal having a year. My kid loves books talking about how the animals raced and cajoled to get their assigned order. Each animal embodies certain characteristics which are passed down to people born in those years. I’m born in the year of the horse. If you ask my parents, they say I stomp my feet when I’m mad, like a horse does. To find out what Zodiac animal you are visit here.

Rat — This is the Year of the Rat. Rats are known to be clever and funny. During this year, use your cleverness to root out inequities. Your fortune, at least according to one website says: great opportunities will come your way in 2020! However, it is entirely up to you on whether or not you take them. The best time to make a change in your life is within the first three months of the year.” Remember to use your great ‘opportunities’ to examine your privileges and use your cleverness and humor to support communities of color.

Ox — Those born in the year of the Ox attain their fortune through hard work and persistence. They are known as steadying forces when the world is in chaos, or as some would say they are stubborn and can be a killjoy. In 2020, your luck should take a turn for the better – including in love and work. Why not use this goodness to get unstuck in your thinking about race, racial equity, and other social constructs. Take your good-lovin’ and share it with your POC communities. Push your luck and call in colleagues and friends to learn more about race.

Tiger — Prowling tiger waiting to pounce. The Year of the Rat, 2020, will be a year to coast – your luck will be stable (according to the internet). Since you’ll be coasting, why not ride that wave into a new volunteer endeavor where you can build a new relationship with a community of color. Tigers are known for their humanitarian instincts. If picking up a new volunteer job is too much of a commitment, then do one kind act for another cause related to a community of color. Your luck will change by sharing your fortune with others.

Rabbit — You adorable, gracious, and good-mannered bunnies will not do well in the year of the rat. But take heart this means it is a year for you to hunker down and concentrate on you. While you are at times moody, take this moodiness and realize the world isn’t about you and learn to share with others in your community. This sharing isn’t just about material goods, which you have a natural affinity for making money, but really it is about being in a cross-racial community.

Dragon — Dragon people are as mythical and magnanimous as they sound. They are often eager and full of energy that is rarely contained. In this year of luck and fortune and being a doer by nature, fight the urge to speak for others, instead pause and listen. In your career pursuits, your instincts and feelings are often right, use this energy and no not become complacent in allowing racism to slide by. Also take some of your boundless energy and clean up your desk and room.

Snake — People born under the sign of the snake are often skeptical and a bit secretive, and ambitious. The Year of the Rat will be a good one for wealth making for snakes. If this is true for you, reinvest your wealth in communities of color – this can mean making donations to POC led and embedded organizations, shopping at POC businesses, etc. If you have decision making control within your wealth making enterprises, work to change your hiring and promotion practices to ensure POCs have a fair chance at the same wealth as prosperity as you snake people.

Horse — Ok, horse people it is time for us to buckle down and play nice. 2020 and the Year of the Rat is opposite of the horse on the zodiac. This year we need to be nice, help others, and be disciplined. As high-spirited horses, this is the year to give up all of our negative thoughts and bad habits – embrace the racial equity light and admit you don’t know everything. Learn humility in the Year of the Rat.

Sheep — This is a year of transformation. Since you are often called the good Samaritans of the zodiac and are often sincere and righteous with a bleeding heart, transform yourselves into being champions for anti-racist behaviors. Be positive and others will follow your lead, if they don’t take your rams head horns and headbutt them.

Monkey — Monkeys are known as the inventors and motivators of the Chinese zodiac. This year you will be eager to pursue change. Make sure this change is inline and motivated by a desire to work for social good and in line with your racial equity values. Use some of your energetic ways and social calendaring to support poc causes. If you are out entertaining stop by a poc owned restaurant or taphouse, don’t just swing aimlessly around hoping the right thing will find you, be thoughtful and a little playful in line with your monkey spirit.

Rooster — This will be an emotional year for you. Feelings are good when you can understand them. If you are feeling a little fragile and tender around race and social identities, take a moment to acknowledge it and find a friend to explore those feelings. Don’t let those feelings explode on a poc. Don’t puff your chest and crow like you self-assuredly know everything, be part of the flock and say “ok, it is my turn to let someone else lead while I learn.”

Dog — Likeable dog will have a good year if you are open-minded and flexible. Use your innate intelligence and honesty to learn more about others and the communities around you. Your natural tendency to guard and protect those you like is an important quality in community building. Use this to help others who may be further from justice.

Pig — Pigs will have more freedom this year and feel more productive. Take some of that productivity and freedom and channel it into feeling just a little uncomfortable, by this we mean challenge yourself to try to understand a social problem from a new angle.

Have a happy and safe lunar new year. Eat some nian gao, go to Chinatown and pick up some delicious food and watch all the dragon and lion dances. To my Asian relations – Gung he fat choy, happy Tet, and Selloal.

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Abby, Adrienne, Aimie, Alessandra, Ali, Aline, Alissa, Allison, Amber, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Angie, Angelica, Anh-Chi, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Barb, Ben, Betsy, Brooke, Brooke B., Brian, C+C, Caitlin, Calandra, Cadence, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Casey, Chandra, Chelsea, Chicxs Happy Brownies, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Colleen, Colleen K-S, Colleen L., Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danya, Darcie, Dawnnesha, Dean, Debbie (x2), Denise, Denyse, Dick, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica (2), Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Jaime, Janis, Jean, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessa, Jessica, Jessica G., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kimberly, Krista, Kristen, Kristen C., Kristen D., Kumar, Kyla, Laura, Laurel, Laurie, Leah, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Lynn D., Maile, Maka, Makeba, Marc, Maria, Mary, Matthew, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Natasha, Nathan, Nathan H. (x2), Nicole, Norah, Norrie, Paola, Patrick, PMM, Priya, Rachel, Rebecca, Reyda, Risa, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah L., Sarah S., Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Sierra, Stephanie, Stephanie O., Stephanie S., Susan, Tana, Tania, Tania T.-D.,Tara, Terri, Tracy, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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Let’s talk about gendered language

rommytorrico_democracyisapractice_rgb

Artwork from Amplifer Art — Rommy Torrico, “Realizing Democracy is a year-long learning series led by The Ford Foundation reimagining the relationship among civil society, government, and the economy — and asking what it would take to realize the full promise of democracy in the United States. To learn more and engage, visit realizingdemocracy.org.”

Note: Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Please take a moment to learn about the civil rights leader and his impact on our communities. If you are in Seattle the NW African American Museum has an event — King Day, a great chance to learn more and support our Black and African American community. 


I’m about to wade into a topic I don’t know a lot about. Learning about gender and its impact on society and communities is a social construct I have a lot of learning to do. Many generous people have helped me become aware of the importance of gender, and in particular gender in language. With this new awareness comes a need to learn more, admit what I don’t know, and to practice learning. I’m veering a little off my normal topics of race, since gender is another important topic for me and many others to think about and grow into better practices.

This blog post isn’t about gender pronouns. Other people have written more extensively on that topic, please read some of the articles and use people’s pronouns.

Over the past few months I’ve noticed I use a lot of gendered language. There are many times I default to saying “you guys,” or other obviously male/female language. When I write I’ve slipped in words such as manpower, dude, freshman, actor, landlord, etc. In some ways all of these words denote men/male. Such as manpower, clearly says ‘man’ when I should say staffing power or person power instead. The words landlord and actor are a little less gendered but I included them since they are the male version of the words that have become commonplace in our English language – actor vs actress, landlord vs landlady. Freshman, is a very common term to denote a first-year student or first year in a position, the ‘man’ in the word skews towards thinking about men/males.

Defaulting to certain words that denote gender automatically and underhandedly creates power and sometimes class imbalances. Such as saying chairman implies men, including white men, are at the top. Gender laced words also leave out people who do not fall into the female/male binary, such genderfluid, intersex, or transgender people.

Why this matters

Recently, I was looking at some data point about teaching gender and sexuality in schools. A percentage of survey respondents said they don’t want schools teaching about gender and sexuality. As I read this data point, I thought, “Do they realize gender and sexuality are being taught every day whether they like it or not?” Every day children are exposed to gender-norms and terminology when they hear someone say, “Boys and girls,” “that is a boy toy,” “girls can do anything.” All these phrases are seemingly innocent, but they unmistakably are teaching messages about gender, gender roles, and feel inclusive or othering to different people. This doesn’t just happen in schools. Online shopping, there are often categories such as “boy clothes,” “girl toys,” etc. These beliefs are everywhere. Just like race, not talking about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact our daily lives.

In some cultures and languages, gender is interwoven into the language or alternatively not. When I was learning to speak and read Japanese, the honorific is gender-neutral, such as Miyagi-san when referring to Mr. Miyagi in the movie the Karate Kid. In English we would use Mr., Ms., etc. having to choose the appropriate title to go with gender. My friend James gave me a mini-lesson Vietnamese language. He explained in the Vietnamese language we have to think about age and positionality as well as gender in referring to others and substitute the word “I” for the speakers positionality. As James explained in this example he would say: “Hi older sister Erin, what time should younger brother call older sister to follow-up?” These cultural nuances are important and equally important to understand why some people might appear to be resistant to change, but really the language and culture change being asked for is a very new concept and sometimes the language and cultural norms need to change as well.

The language we use sends messages about who is included and not included. This can have real implications in who we hire, who feels included in classrooms, healthcare, positions of leadership.  Saying phrases like “boys and girls” sends a message on who is in a position of power, who is included and isn’t, and so on. In a job description saying he/she, may unintentionally screen out many qualified applicants. Or listing in a job description “generous maternity leave,” doesn’t feel very inclusive to many families without ‘mothers.’ I remember seeing a Facebook post by a POC organization advertising for a new Executive Director. In their posting they added the hashtags #womenofcolor and #mothersofcolor. By adding these hashtags they may have been meant to encourage women and mothers in to applying, but they were also leaving out many other qualified candidates, who do not identify as a women or a mother and may have had many relevant leadership skills.

What to do

As I mentioned earlier this has been a learning journey for me. Even sharing this blog post publicly is a little frightening for me since I know this isn’t a topic I understand well. I have a lot of learning to do, and writing this has forced me to reflect, do some research and thinking, and I’ve learned more. I also encourage you to do more of your own research since this post is not going deep into the topic at all. If this is an area of strength for you, thank you for your work, teaching, and patience with people like me who are learning.

The first step for me was being aware of how gender is showing up in my language, once I recognized my tendencies I am finding over time I am able to shift away from certain words and phrases, such as saying “you guys,” “dude!,” and other gendered phrases. I’ve been working on using they/them in place of he/him and her/she as well. It hasn’t been easy and I still slip a lot, but the more I am conscious of these tendencies the easier it will be to self-correct. I’ve also learned from watching others who model this very effectively replacing gendered language with terms such as folx (or folks), friends instead of boys and girls, neighbors or kin in place of brothers and sisters.

If you want to extend your learning look up articles and YouTube videos related gender neutral language, there are many.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Abby, Adrienne, Aimie, Alessandra, Ali, Aline, Alissa, Amber, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Angie, Angelica, Anh-Chi, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Barb, Ben, Betsy, Brooke, Brooke B., Brian, C+C, Caitlin, Calandra, Cadence, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Casey, Chandra, Chelsea, Chicxs Happy Brownies, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Colleen, Colleen K-S, Colleen L., Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danya, Darcie, Dawnnesha, Dean, Debbie (x2), Denise, Denyse, Dick, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica (2), Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Jaime, Janis, Jean, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessa, Jessica, Jessica G., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kimberly, Krista, Kristen, Kristen C., Kristen D., Kumar, Laura, Laurel, Laurie, Leah, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Lynn D., Maile, Maka, Makeba, Marc, Maria, Mary, Matthew, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Natasha, Nathan, Nathan H. (x2), Nicole, Norah, Norrie, Paola, Patrick, PMM, Priya, Rachel, Rebecca, Risa, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie O., Stephanie S., Susan, Tana, Tania, Tania T.-D.,Tara, Terri, Tracy, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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2020 Culturally Significant Dates & New Years (x19)

20200109_233920_0000Time to pull out your calendars and start marking off dates. Here is the 2020 Fakequity list of culturally significant dates, new years, and monthly celebrations.

Why this list

A few years ago I invited a colleague to coffee. She was ridiculously gracious in reminding me the date fell during Ramadan. I knew she was Muslim and I should have realized she would be fasting during Ramadan. At that moment I realized I couldn’t rely upon western calendars to remind me of these important dates in doing cross-cultural and cross-racial work. I made sure to put in Ramadan on my calendar and continue to do this annually.

Another year, as we were planning an event, we checked with our very diverse planning group to see if a certain date would be ok. Everyone signed off on it and only the week before we realized it fell during another important religious holiday. Another western calendar fail.

I also decided to update the list because it is interesting and fun to explore cultures through their important days. Such as this year I learned Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as Moon Cake day. I love a good moon cake, sooo yummy and so calorie dense. I also learned a little more about important Buddhism dates by including a few into this year’s list. We can learn about people and cultures by what they celebrate or choose to use as remembrances.

Notes and Biases

The list below does not include too many Western or Christian holidays. Those dates are easily found on Western calendars and many online calendars (MS Outlook or Google Calendar) have plugins that will pre-populate those for you. I also purposefully did not want to center American/European/white-centric holidays with this list.

No list can incorporate every culture’s dates and holidays. I did my best to include dates that a very diverse friend and colleague group mentioned as being important to them and their faiths, cultures, and backgrounds. This means there are a lot of biases included in the list. To name a few of those biases – US West Coast, English speaking/literate, social media connected. I double-checked this list against a few other lists (here is one from Cultures Connecting) to see if I missed major events. Some list are more inclusive than the Fakequity list, and others skewed differently, such as they included American holidays and Christian holy days. As authors and editors, we make editorial and political decisions on what to include and exclude. It is important for you to do your own research and decide what is important to include you and your network and daily work.

I did my best to make the list as accurate as possible, however there are cultural nuances that may have been missed. Such as in regionality is important. Such as the Puget Sound and Minneapolis have large Somali communities, so those dates play more prominently than in other places like Hawaii. Hawaii has holidays that aren’t celebrated elsewhere (I didn’t include those on this list, but look up Kamehameha day). Some holidays or events have different starting and ending on different dates than what I may have listed due to different practices. Some events may start at sundown/sunset on one day but Western calendars (which I relied on) may show the date differently. Please check with your own networks to ensure you are being culturally sensitive if observing a date.

2020 Culturally Significant Dates

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – 1/20/20
  • Lunar New Year (Chinese) / Tet (Vietnamese) / Seollal (Korean) – 1/25/2020
  • Leap Day / 2020 Leap Year – 2/29/20 (Not necessarily culturally significant, but author’s bias and privilege to insert this)
  • Hinamatsuri – Girl’s Day (Japanese) – 3/3/20 – annual date 3 March
  • Holi – 3/9/20 sundown, ends 3/10/20 sundown
  • Passover (Jewish) – 4/8-16/20 ends nightfall
  • Eretria Easter – 4/12/20
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Easter – 4/19/20
  • Orthodox Easter – 4/19/19 [Edit — corrected to this date]
  • Children’s / Boy’s Day (Japanese) – 5/5/20 –annual date 5 April
  • Ramadan – 4/23 (sundown) -5/23/20 (tentative dates, dependent on the sighting of the moon)
  • Vesak / Vesākha / Vaiśākha / Buddha Jayanti / Buddha Purnima / Buddha Day (Buddhist) – 5/7/20
  • Eid ul-Fitr – 5/24/20
  • All Saints Day (Orthodox) — 6/14/20
  • Juneteenth – 6/19/20
  • Summer Solstice (northern hemisphere) – 6/20/20
  • Hajj (Islam) – 7/30/20 (ten-day period)
  • Liberation Day (Guam) – 7/21/20
  • Ethiopian New Year – 9/11-9/12/20
  • Mid-Autumn Festival – 10/01/20
  • Rosh Hashanah – 9/18-9/20 (starts sundown 9/18)
  • Yom Kippur – 9/27-9/28 (starts sundown 9/27)
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – 9/13 – annually recognized
  • White Sunday (Samoa) – 10/11/20
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day – 10/12/20
  • All Saints Day – 11/1/20 (always 1 Nov)
  • Día de los Muertos – 11/1/20 (always 1 Nov)
  • US Presidential Election Day – 11/3/20
  • All Souls Day – 11/2/20 (always 2 Nov)
  • Diwali / Deepavali / Dipavali / Bandi Chhor Divas (Sikh) – 11/14/20
  • Transgender Day of Remembrance – 11/20/20 – annually recognized
  • Bodhi Day (Buddhist) – 12/8/20
  • Human Rights Day – 12/10 – annually recognized
  • Las Posadas and Noche Buena (Christian Latin American) – 12/16-24/20
  • Simbang Gabi (Filipino) – 12/16 – 12/24/20
  • Winter Equinox (northern hemisphere) 12/21/20
  • Hanukkah / Chanukah – 12/10-18/20 (starts and ends at nightfall)
  • St. Nicholas Feast Day (celebrated by Greek Orthodox) — 12/26/20
  • Kwanzaa – 12/26-1/1 annually celebrated
  • Orthodox / Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas / Eritrean Orthodox Christmas (Note: Not all Orthodox celebrate Christmas on this day, many celebrate Christmas on 12/25, the 1/7/21 date follows the ‘old calendar’) – 1/7/21

New Years Dates

This is a favorite list to put together. I enjoy seeing all of the different new year dates and thinking fresh starts are available to us year-round – 19 different dates listed. It stretches our thinking from a linear January – December frame to thinking more wholly. Lunar new year is coming up, so get that second round of new year’s resolutions going.

  • Orthodox New Year – 1/7/20 and 1/7/21 (including 2021 since we passed the 2020 date)
  • Losar / Tibetan New Year – 2/24/20
  • Lunar New Year (Chinese) / Tet (Vietnamese) / Seollal (Korean) – 1/25/20
  • Tsagaan Sar/ White Moon (Mongolian) – 1/24/20
  • Persian Nowruz / Iranian New Year – 3/20/20
  • Naw-Rúz / first day of the Baháʼí calendar – 3/20/20
  • Nyepi Bali Hindu New Year – 3/25/20
  • Ugaadhi / Telegu and Kannada New Year – 4/6/19
  • Thingyan / Burmese New Year Festival – 4/13-16/20
  • Aluth Avurudda (Sinhalese New Year, Sri Lanka) – 4/13-14/20
  • Songkran (Thailand) – 4/13-16/20
  • Khmer New Year – 4/13-16/20
  • Bun Pi Mai (Lao) – 4/13-15/20
  • Bengali New Year, Pohela Boishakh – 4/14/20
  • Matariki, Maori New Year (New Zealand) – 7/13/20
  • Al-Hijra / Muharram (Islamic / Muslim) – 7/20/20
  • Enkutatash / Ethiopian New Year – 9/12/20 (due to 2020 being a leap year)
  • Rosh Hashanah – 9/18-9/20 (starts sundown 9/18)
  • Diwali / Deepavali / Dipavali / Bandi Chhor Divas (Sikh) – 11/14/20

Monthly Recognitions

  • January – none
  • February – African American History Month
  • March – Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
  • April – Arab American Heritage Month
  • May – Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month
  • June – LGBT Pride Month
  • July – none
  • August – none
  • September – Hispanic Heritage Month (15 Sept – 15 Oct)
  • October – Disability Employment Awareness Month, Filipino American History Month, LGBT History Month
  • November – Native American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month
  • December – none

A special thank you to everyone who contributed to this list this year and in the past. I appreciate all of you sharing your wisdom, time, and talent to make this as rich and diverse as all of you. A heartfelt thank you.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Adrienne, Aimie, Ali, Aline, Alissa, Amber, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Angie, Angelica, Anh-Chi, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Barb, Ben, Betsy, Brooke, Brooke B., Brian, C+C, Caitlin, Calandra, Cadence, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Casey, Chandra, Chelsea, Chicxs Happy Brownies, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Colleen, Colleen K-S, Colleen L., Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danya, Darcie, Dawnnesha, Dean, Debbie (x2), Denise, Denyse, Dick, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica (2), Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Jaime, Janis, Jean, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessa, Jessica, Jessica G., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kristen C., Kristen D., Kumar, Laura, Laurel, Laurie, Leah, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Lynn D., Maka, Makeba, Marc, Maria, Mary, Matthew, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Natasha, Nathan, Nathan H., Nicole, Norah, Norrie, Paola, Patrick, PMM, Priya, Rachel, Rebecca, Risa, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie O., Stephanie S., Susan, Tana, Tania, Tara, Terri, Tracy, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

 If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version).