by Ray Campbell, Second Vice President
To understand my vision of diversity within ACB, we need not look any further than ACB’s mission statement, which reads: “To increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.” Focus on the last six words of that statement, “All Blind and Visually Impaired People.”
ACB has members from all backgrounds and all walks of life. When I think about diversity in ACB, I believe leadership throughout our organization structure needs to reflect the many diverse people who make up the community of people who are blind. As I think about diversity, I’m taking a broader view. Of course, we need to recruit and mentor good leaders who are women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community and individuals with disabilities in addition to blindness as examples. However, I also believe our membership is diverse in age, political views and income level, among other attributes.
Happily, ACB has been making strides to increase diversity of leadership at the national level. We have had our first woman president. We’ve had and continue to have a board with at least some representation from people of various backgrounds. Heck, I was proud to serve as ACB’s first male secretary.
Because of strong leadership and help and support of our Multicultural Affairs Committee, we’re providing more diverse services to our membership and the community of people who are blind in general. By the time you read this, we will have held our D.C. Leadership Conference, at which much of the content was available in both English and Spanish. For over 22 years, ACB has celebrated Blind LGBT Pride International, to my knowledge the first affiliate of a disability organization specifically focused on issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community. Through ACB’s wonderful community, we’ve celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, among other significant events.
Diversity isn’t something you do and say, OK, we’ve done that, on to something else. We need to always strive to do better and not be satisfied with where we are. We as leaders and members need to take responsibility to work with our affiliates and local chapters to recruit, mentor and groom diverse leaders. These are the national leaders of our future who will chair committees and lead projects on their way to either serving on the national board of directors or board of publications or joining our professional staff. While we are showing some diverse representation on our current board, there are many capable leaders within ACB’s membership whom I believe are ready and willing to serve.
As affiliate and chapter leaders, I encourage you to look for those members from various backgrounds to serve on your committees or in your leadership. Don’t always put the same people you’ve always had on committees, as President Spoone often says; be intentional and give different people with fresh ideas the chance to serve. Provide mentoring and support to help them be successful, and if they make a mistake, help them learn from the experience.
The opportunities to serve are there nationally. During the 2022 convention, we had just six candidates running for five Board of Directors positions, and three candidates running for three Board of Publications positions. Of that total of nine candidates for office, only two were people of color. What do we do to change that?
We’ve taken a big step by establishing the ACB Mentoring and Peer Support program (MAPS). We have a diverse group of explorers and guides working together, with our guides sharing their knowledge and encouraging our explorers in different ways. I encourage everyone to get involved with future cohorts of this program, whether as an explorer or guide. Through this program, we’ll grow a crop of diverse future leaders.
Our wonderful ACB Community has a diverse group of over 150 volunteers overseeing over 100 events per week using Zoom, Clubhouse and ACB Media. These individuals are diverse in gender, race, age and other attributes. We’re starting to see some of these individuals get more involved in ACB, which is very rewarding. It’s our job as leaders to foster an environment which encourages more people to get involved as they choose.
I started this article using ACB’s mission to illustrate what I believe diversity needs to look like in ACB. Hold all of us as leaders accountable and encourage us not to become complacent and to strive to do even more. This will lead to an ACB we can all be proud of, which reflects the true diversity of our membership and of our country.