Staying and Be Kind to Yourself

A Late Night Conversation– How do you Stay?
It was a late night sidewalk conversation I still remember. Nora, a wickedly amazing younger colleague, asked us “How do you do the work? How do you stay?” Her question caught me off-guard, she’s young and eager, how could she think of leaving the field? I sobered up quickly from my half-glass jalapeno margarita, and told Nora that she has to stay in the field of community building—we need her, she is the current and next generation of leaders.

At the PolicyLink Equity Summit Nick Tilsen, a Native American economic justice leader, talked about seven generations: “Honor three generations of the past, you are the present generation, and work for three generations ahead.” He also said to learn from your elders, you may not agree with them all of the time but they can be your greatest allies and wisest supporters.

This is for you Nora and other social justice leaders, you are the present and the future. I may be older, but I’m not old enough to be wise or profound enough to be your elder; just old enough to buy the drinks without getting carded. This is also a thank you to our elders and a invitation to the three generations ahead of me.

“Social justice work moves at a snail’s pace, on a turtle’s back, at a rodeo.” Dr. Donald Felder
Social justice work moves at a snail’s pace, on a turtle’s back, at a rodeo. Imagine that and you’ll get a sense of how long you need to work to see change. Dr. Felder’s quote also reminds me how crazy the work is and how crazy I also have to be to get anything done. Equity work is personal, there is no way to make it anything but personal. These are some steps that have helped me stay somewhat sane.

Seven Survival Steps
1. Find Your Tribe: Find some friends and colleagues whom you like and gather. About every six-eight weeks I get really antsy and that is my clue that I need to gather my Fakequity Fighters for breakfast or happy hour so we can vent, laugh, and problem solve. Good things come out of these sessions (like this blog). When we gather we allow ourselves to talk honestly about our successes and struggles. I also find they push me to think more creatively and to think about equity more deeply. I don’t know if I give the same to my friends, but maybe my gift is I send out the doodle poll to schedule.

2. Learn: Recognize your experiences aren’t the same as anyone else. In order to get the work right we need to continually learn and adapt our thinking. Read a lot of different articles and books, listen to your elders, and learn to spot fakequity. Spotting fakequity is a skill you will build, as you learn you’ll begin to sniff it out and then be able to call it out.

3. Call out the fakequity and ask good questions: Dr. Donald Felder is one of my amazing mentors and board members. He is trying to teach me the skill of asking a good question. Dr. Felder has honed the craft of asking questions that push people to understand the change and thought process he wants them to pursue and see. It is a Yoda-like skill I have yet to master as I’m only a Jedi-in training.

4. Don’t Read Noisy Blogs or Comments: It is tempting to read noisy ranty blog and newspaper comments, but as another friend once said “I feel less than human [after reading them].” If I don’t have a relationship with the person writing them, then I probably won’t fully understand their thinking. I don’t like getting mad and yelling at my computer and I don’t find it a productive use of my time, so I’ve decided to stop reading newspaper comments and I limit my reading of ranty blogs.

5. Drink and Know Your Non-Negotiables: Go drink water (you thought I’d mention alcohol), go for a walk, breathe, and figure out your non-negotiables. The only way I can stay in the work for the long-haul is taking time to also do things I love. Find something you love that isn’t connected to your daily work and do it. Put it on your calendar and hold the time. Heidi, a fakequity fighter, thinks best while bicycling and loves the activity. Jondou is great at BBQ and takes great care in feeding others grilled meat (if you’re vegan you get one grilled cremini mushroom). CiKeithia dances her heart out at Zumba. These gifts are equally as important as their professional work, save some time for you. Community work requires time to think and doing something for yourself will lead to interesting connections.

6. Say Yes (and No): Say yes a lot. Say yes to the things that are scary and push you in just_say_yes_mousepadnew ways. Say yes to meeting people you may not want to meet with. Say yes to embracing the weird space of not having answers or knowing what the heck is happening. It will lead you to new experiences and you’ll meet people who can help you along the way.

Saying yes, also means becoming very clear about when you will say yes and help you define when to say no. This year my organization has built new partnerships because we said yes to embracing new work. Saying yes also meant we were saying no to doing other things that weren’t right at the moment. Saying yes to partnering with organizations that align and who bring great support and partnerships to our coalition partners is a win. Who we said no to are activities that aren’t mission aligned nor racial equity focused, or perhaps just not the right time.

7. Don’t be a Jerk: Racial equity work is about relationships, put people first. It is really that simple, put people first and don’t be a jerk. Be a good partner, open doors literally and figuratively, share, and be nice. Fakequity = Jerk. Equity = harder work of sharing and being open.

There are a lot of other tips, but we’ll save those for another time. Feel free to share what works for you, I’d love to pick up a few new self-care tips. It is easy to talk about self-care and harder to do, so maybe your tip is the magical one.

Posted by Erin

Voting and Equity

I just got back from the PolicyLink Equity Summit in Los Angeles. Being surrounded by palm trees and so much talk about equity was like being drunk on jalapeno margaritas for three days.

Before I left I voted; I’ve been ruminating about this voting and equity for several days. Attending the Summit refined my thinking about why elections matter to People of Color and why we need to ensure our votes count.

Every Vote, Every Ballot Matters
PandaButtVotePeople of Color need to take voting seriously. It is an important way for our communities to have our priorities heard, and a say in how we want to live our lives. As a society we have a long way to go to getting equity right in elections. As one speaker at the Summit said “If voting didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be trying to take away your vote.”

Elections and voting are not my everyday thinking, I spend more time thinking about the best banh mi sandwiches and equity in education. What I learned was problems are still prevalent in the election system. A panelist from Common Cause spoke about how an Assemblyperson called her during redistricting and said “I won’t have another f**ing Asian in my district,” she represented an area close to Chinatown in San Francisco, so it’s kinda hard not to have an f**ing Asian in her district. Another speaker told a story about an African American was denied a vote because she was expunged from the voter rolls because her name was the same as someone else, and because there was no same day registration she couldn’t vote. Or in another place during redistricting apartment buildings were split into two separate districts—I’m still scratching my head on that one. These aren’t the stories from the Civil Rights Era, these happened within recent history.

Every vote matters and we need to ensure we are counted. Here are my four take-aways from the Equity Summit around voting:

  • We need to vote—We need to band together and remind people to vote. We need to show up and cast our ballots, we need our ballots counted. Find someone who isn’t registered and hold their hand as they register, then remind them to vote.
  • Remove barriers to voting—We need to understand why People of Color aren’t voting. Is it because of crap-filled policies keeping voters away? We need to call government on their stupid policies that are keeping people from voting. We need to create greater access to voting (more on this later).
  • People of Color on Ballots—To my tribe, my ohana, we need to step up, we need to start getting ourselves elected to public offices. Every elected office from School Board Directors to President is important. Even if we don’t win running for office changes the conversation and puts a different narrative forward. I am so proud of my friends and colleagues who made the leap and ran for office—you are brave, you are speaking truth to power, and we are better because of you.
  • Census—2020 will be the next U.S. Census, and we need to be counted. I learned at the Summit how important the census is to People of Color. It is the one time where everyone in America counts. As the speaker said “It doesn’t matter if you are 1 day old or 100 years old, it doesn’t matter how or why you are here, you count as one.” We need to be counted so we can be seen. Start planning how you’ll reach out and get people into the census count.

Access to Voting
DSCN3414As I mentioned earlier I voted and I am annoyed, I had to stick a stamp on my ballot. I realized my problem is a privilege problem. No one took away my right to vote, I got my ballot, and I can afford the stamp. But I am calling fakequity on the lack of access to cast my ballot without the “stamp-tax.”

If we’re going get communities of color to vote en masse we need to create better access to voting. In King County there are no permanent ballot drop boxes in S Seattle, thus limiting early voting for an area with a high population of People of Color and higher poverty rates. Early voting is important in capturing more ballots. Here are two ideas to capture more votes:

  1. Give people the stamp, Universal Access to Voting: We need to remove barriers to voting and create systems where people purposefully opt-out. If we give people prepaid return envelopes it removes the cost and mobility (getting to a drop box) barriers. We already know from other sectors that prepaid envelopes yield higher returns, why do you think you get so many credit card offers with prepaid envelopes? If we value voting as much as we say we do than it should be fully funded out of general fund taxes or a small fee on something like the cost of getting a driver’s license. It is a small price to pay for a right that impacts all of our lives. I’ll tax myself the cost of a banh mi sandwich for greater equity in voting.
  2. Go Where the People Are, Ballot Boxes Everywhere: One of the simplest ideas in equitable design is you go where people are. On a weekly basis I’m at the library, grocery store, train station, and sandwich deli; we need ballot boxes where we live, work, and play. Now someone is going to say multiple ballot boxes will expose the system to fraud, this is a fakequity argument. Voter fraud, while it still exist, is rare so the argument that this might incite voting fraud shouldn’t trump fair access to voting.

Voting Movement
The final idea is we need a movement around voting. Voting is so important we can’t get complacent and believe that it is another person’s job to encourage communities of color to vote. Maybe we need a hashtag to start the movement: #POCVote or #FakequityVoting.

Go vote.

Posted by Erin

Meet the Fakequity Team

Jondou Chase Chen, PhD, is a storyteller but he disguises himself as an academic researcher. Dr. Jondou studied developmental psychology, and now works on equity in education. He came up with the term ‘weaponizing data’ and is currently working on a chart explaining this concept. On a perfect day he can be found out back splitting fire wood and building an outdoor oven for cooking.

Roxana Norouzi’s passport is filled with passport stamps; in some places they are three deep which gives her a unique perspective of the world. Roxana spends her days working for immigrant and refugee rights and voice. On the side Roxana dances better than the stars on Dancing With the Stars.

Cherry Cayabyab knows the community and they know her. As a community organizer and leader Cherry has worked with amazing grassroots leaders to keep communities rooted and thriving. Cherry fights Fakequity by doing hard-core community engagement and outreach. Cherry’s ideal vacation is to Hanalei, Kauai sitting beachside with a drink, poke, and a nice trade wind to keep things cool.

By day CiKeithia Pugh works in the early learning field connecting literacy resources to underserved communities. She’s a Race and Social Justice Initiative facilitator and works hard to infuse equity into her projects. CiKeithia believes Fakequity Fighters should call fakequity in style, and often wins the best dressed award when we gather.

Heidi Schillinger runs a consulting firm Equity Matters which provides equity training, consultation, and analysis to government agencies, nonprofits, and philanthropy. Heidi’s brain is uniquely wired to spot fakequity and work to remedy it. Heidi does some of her best fakequity spotting while riding her bike, including riding from Seattle to Portland (202 miles) and Seoul (S Korea) to Busan (633 km or 393 mi). Heidi’s claims to fame include coining the word fakequity.

Erin Okuno came up with the fakequity chart after getting mad at a meeting and channeled her annoyance into making fun of fake-equity. When not making up charts, Erin can be found working on education support and racial equity. Erin is an island girl at heart and likes to eat, but prefers places her non-profit salary can support with meals costing less than $12 per meal.

Honorary Membership
We are granting honorary membership to Vu Le because he speaks, writes, and fights fakequity as part of his platform. Vu is pretty great, but we don’t tell him that too often before he thinks he’s a unicorn, which we all know don’t really exist. Besides fakequity pandas chomp the horns off of unicorns most days.