Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Ten Years On

Yesterday Candace Dodson Reed, co-host of local podcast Elevate Maryland, made the following observation on Twitter:

Please take a look at the @ColumbiaAssn board. And think about the diversity of Columbia. I talked about the lack of diversity on this board in 2010 after hosting a “beer summit”  & not much has changed. Please, please look at your boards & commissions. And speak up.

She linked to the Board page on the Columbia Association website.

The current CA Board is one hundred per cent white. I wonder why that is?

I attended that “beer summit” that Ms. Dodson-Reed hosted. I remember a piece by Larry Carson in the Sun around that same time:

In the past I have written about my concerns that Village Boards and the CA Board can be tough for newcomers to break into. I’ve been distressed by how a younger generation of Columbians feel unwelcome at meetings and dismissed in their interactions with leadership. By and large, the people in power are determined to stay in power and those CA Board Chair positions aren’t going to change hands unless the incumbents choose to let go of them. 

I haven’t written specifically about the lack of Black representation on the Board because I’ve  seen it as an old Columbia vs new Columbia vibe. That’s always been my framework. But, given the fact that old Columbia was deliberately integrated, it stands to reason that there would be a healthy amount of  Black representation on the CA Board.

There isn’t.

Why? Do people feel unwelcome? Have they experienced the same-old, same-old of pushback and microaggressions when they tried to get involved? Has the inbred quality of CA leadership served to lock out Black representation?

No matter what the reason or reasons, the fact is that there is zero Black representation on the board. That Board is supposed to represent a model community founded on principles of integration and inclusion. No matter how hard our board members work or how well-meaning they may be, that is a stumbling block they cannot overcome.

Every year I give my speech about running for a Village Board. Every year I talk about how important it is that a younger generation get involved and their voices be heard. In all those years I’ve never deliberately articulated how necessary Black voices are. My vision did not by any means exclude them. 

It didn’t invite them, either. 

From Larry Carson’s piece in 2010:

Ronald Walters, professor emeritus with the University of Maryland's African American Leadership Institute, said some blacks hesitate to volunteer — even in racially mixed communities — because of long-held perceptions that whites control society's structure. Only the most outgoing blacks step forward, he said.

"That means that it often takes an aggressive effort by the organizations to recruit and prove they are open to fair and diverse participation," he said. There appears no organized effort to recruit minorities onto Columbia Association boards, though individual people do sporadically volunteer.

Columbia can’t possibly live up to the aspirational goals of its founders without diverse represention. You might think that goes without saying. But, at fifty-plus years on, and with no Black representation on the Board, I think we need to say it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.