Webinar Notes: Beyond the Board Statement: How Can Boards Join the Movement for Racial Justice?

Sheila Matano, who is the VP of the board of the BC Chapter of the Canadian Evaluation Society (CESBC), who is also the chair of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, told me about this two-part webinar series. Like many boards, we are wanting to do better when it comes to doing our work in an inclusive way, and we didn’t want to just put out a board statement that says “Black Lives Matters” but then just go on operating the way that we always have. So I was excited to check out this series for some concrete ideas about how we can do this well. And I was not disappointed!

Panelists: Robin Stacia (RS) https://sageconsultingnetwork.com/meet-our-ceo/ and  Vernetta Walker (VW).

Hosted by: Nonprofit Quarterly

Part 1: Date: June 22, 2020

Watch part 1 here. Watch part 2 here.

Here are my notes from the webinars.

My takeaways:

  • board statements need to state a commitment to what you are going to do
  • it’s not about waiting out the uprising until you can go “back to business”
  • how can boards use their influence in a way that aligns with their mission?
  • the work needs to be done by the whole board – it’s not to be on the one Black person on your board to own this work. It can be retraumatizing for them. And Black people are tired from fighting for centuries – white people need to step up.
  • look at your board composition – we need a diverse board and a coalition of all of us

Understanding our history:

  • we are a post-colonial society – there was a narrative that “natives” were “savage” –> white supremacy –> allowed white people to enslave Black people
  • slavery did not end – it just evolved
  • there is still a presumption of danger re: Black and brown people
  • truth and reconcilitation/justice/reparation are sequential – the truth must come first
  • as boards, we need to tell the truth about what we’ve ignored, overlooked, and benefitted from

Debunking Myths

Myth: “It’s just a few bad actors”

  • RS: this myth “minimizes the centuries long struggled that Black, brown, indigenous people have experienced”
  • it is a system of racism:
    • restricts every aspect of life for Black, brown, and indigenous people (healthcare, criminal justice, politics, education, wealth – everything)
    • institutional policies/practices/laws/regulations designed to benefit and create advantages for white people and oppress and disadvantage Black, brown, and indigenous people
    • exists no matter your age, location, socioeconomic status
  • VW: we have a lot to unlearn
    • we’ve been socialized to not talk about race
    • boards should talk about why they are so uncomfortable to talk about race
    • boards should learn about unconscious bias
    • do you have authentic relationships with Black and brown people? Because we’ve been separated
    • COVID-19 and this uprising = perfect storm, because people had time to reflect and feel the pain
    • we can’t show up effectively for the board work if you haven’t done the individual work

Myth: People try to replace “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter”

  • VW: saying “Black Lives Matter” is not saying “only Black Lives Matter” – it’s saying “Black Lives Matter too”
  • there is violence against Black bodies, often by state actors
  • lots of people have heard that “race is a social construct”, but they don’t get it. They think there are differences between the races that justify the violence, but there are not.
  • “waking up Black” has a level of stress that is measurable – decreased life expectancy, gaps in educational acheivement, maternal mortality, criminal justice system involvement – bias and systemic racism leads to all of this
  • RS: people misunderstand “racial equity” – it means the state where my racial identity doesn’t have an impact on me -e.g., I can go to the bank or go birdwatching and my racial identity does not dictate the outcome

A board statement alone is not enough

  • When they polled the webinar audience, about 3/4 said that their board had issues a statement in the wake of the BLM protests, but only 1/4 said that their board had an indepth conversation about the issues
  • VM: some statements just say something to the effect of “we stand with you”, but nothing about what they will actually do
    • good statements will say what they are doing and what they commit to doing
    • there was a backlash if you didn’t put out a statement, and there was also a backlash if your statement didn’t have any teeth – it shows that people are paying attention
    • put putting out a statement for the sake of public perception is not good

Questions to ask when if and when you do speak out:

These are taken verbatim from their slide:

  1. How does your statement acknowledge the historical injustices of structural and systemic racism?
  2. How do you use the document to bring about awareness concerning systemic and structural racism to your audiences?
  3. How does the statement align with your organization’s mission?
  4. Is your organization willing to be an ally in supporting the work? If so, how?
  5. What is the call to action and committment to the work? Examples can include:
    1. How do you plan to alleviate barriers and create access to opportunities to bring about equitable and just outcomes?
    2. How do you plan to leverage the various forms of capital that are at your disposal to address the issues?

Source: Robert L. Dortch, Jr. Vice President, Programs & Innovation, Robins Foundation

As I look at these questions, I think that not only are they useful for our work on the CESBCY board, but they can also be helpful for me to think about how I do my teaching.


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