[By Kim Leval, Executive Director, with input from Ashley Chesser, Chair, NCAP Diversity Team; Megan Dunn, Healthy People and Communities Program Director]
In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 10, 2016, the Board of Directors and staff of the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides release our newly updated Equity, Diversity and Inclusion statement.
The first paragraph of the statement reads:
NCAP values equity, diversity and inclusion within our organization and with our partners to further our mission. We seek to understand and address historical and current patterns of oppression and racism within our organization and in how we do our work. We continually strive to build NCAP as an equitable, antiracist and multicultural organization where differences are seen as assets.
An important part of our mission in protecting community and environmental health is to create a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion within our organization and in the work we do.
"As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest." -Nelson Mandela
It is important on this day, and every day, to honor and respect all communities. Communities of color, indigenous people and people with lower incomes and wealth are more negatively impacted and placed at further disadvantage when it comes to pesticides and their use. We collaborate with such diverse communities in our region. We work to better protect Northwest salmon and steelhead runs, diminished by pesticides, that many Native American Tribes in our region rely on for their livelihood and for cultural and food resources. We strive, within coalitions that include farm worker groups and others, to improve the lives of farm workers and protect them from pesticide exposure. We understand that inequity exists in access to pesticide alternatives and information. Often, those most affected are not included in decision making about when and how pesticides are used.
We believe the people most impacted by pesticides need to be part of the solution. Their knowledge, ideas and leadership need to be sought out, heard and utilized to guide the steps forward. Helping support current leaders, train new leaders and amplify diverse voices creates a stronger movement for the future.
"Freedom, by definition, is people realizing that they are their own leaders." -Diane Nash
NCAP’s Equity and Diversity Team launched in 2015 and includes board, staff and advisory committee members. People of color are members of the team. Together, we updated NCAP’s diversity statement. Our team is learning together and moving forward with equity and diversity plans. We know we will make mistakes as we learn. Owning those mistakes and trying again is important for our success. We have learned that the words we use to describe a community must come from that community, and that we must remain engaged as language changes over time.
Embracing diversity is powerful and brings new perspectives and benefits to our work. Everyone has a story, a unique experience all of their own. Our worldview and perspective can be broadened and changed when we hear another’s experience that is so different from our own. It benefits everyone to have a window into different worlds. It makes us think differently. It changes and opens us to new possibilities.
Our various privileges may blind us to how others live. A member of our team belongs to a community of people that experience high rates of incarceration. Our team learned that pesticides are used at a high rate in prisons where prisoners stay in tight quarters and bedbugs and lice are a problem. Without personally knowing someone incarcerated, some on the team realized that their own white privilege and economic privilege meant that they had not considered this vulnerable population. Learning more about this world opened us to new thinking about how NCAP might help advocate for healthier alternatives for pest management in prisons.
We invite you to read our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion statement and give us feedback on what you like and what might be improved. We see it as a working document that we will update as we learn. We understand that there is no beginning and no end to this work. It constantly evolves and changes and so, too, must we evolve and change. Feel free to leave comments in the comment box.