by Cheryl Cumings
The reality is that our nation, America is becoming a more diverse country. This means that as an organization, ACB has to welcome and reflect the diversity of our nation and communities. The question is, how do we continue doing what makes ACB a unique organization of the blind and actively work to have a present and a future that is more inclusive?
Diversity is stated as part of ACB’s core values, the diversity statement and the strategic plan. The 2020-11 racial justice resolution and the 2021 Spanish language resolutions resulted in the organization taking tangible actions on its path towards greater inclusion. As a result of the 2020 racial justice resolution, there is now a Mentoring, Access and Peer Support (MAPS) program. In 2021, the Durward K. McDaniel (DKM) Committee, the Berl Colley Leadership Institute, the Membership Committee and the Multicultural Affairs Committee came together, developed and launched a pilot mentoring program with the goal of creating future leaders. Thirty ACB members applied to be mentors and 27 applied to be mentees. Twelve members with more than 10 years of experience in ACB were selected to be mentors/guides, sharing their knowledge and experiences with 12 mentees/explorers.
The Spanish language resolution led to the creation of the Hispanic Affairs Subcommittee, which is working to translate the website and to provide Spanish language access. This year Spanish translation will be available at the D.C. Leadership Conference and at the national convention. In the last two national conventions, MCAC partnered with more committees than it had in previous years. There is a growing recognition that diversity exists through all strains of the work of the organization.
Yet, there is resistance. There are still members who insist that in talking and working toward having a diverse and inclusive organization, we are diluting our focus on issues impacting the lives of people who are blind or low vision. As the chair of the Multicultural Affairs Committee, I wholly disagree with this perspective. Diversity is a strength which will position ACB to be a leader today and tomorrow.
MCAC has and will continue to provide cultural awareness activities. Our mission calls on our committee to “promote and sustain a cohesive and inclusive environment that truly values and embraces diversity, cultures, differences, and perspectives within the framework of ACB.” We advance the reality of diversity every time we partner with BPI to hold a discussion on race and sexual orientation. We advance diversity within ACB every time we join with LUA in co-leading a session on a book, and every time we partner with the Jewish Hour to talk about civil rights and the relationship between African-Americans and Jewish-Americans. The willingness to use these opportunities to learn about our similarities and differences helps us to recognize and to respect each other so that we can work together for a better future.
Yet, for diversity to be more fully achieved in ACB, we need our chapters and special-interest affiliates to include issues of diversity in their work. We encourage you to look at your local community and ask who is not present in your organization. It may be time to set up a working group that will focus on getting to know new communities in your area. We need our board and its advisory councils to continue increasing the number of people of color who are its members. We need our website to show our diversity by having images that represent the variety of members. ACB is a membership organization supported by a professional staff and therefore for diversity to be who we are, it must exist across the entire organization. As we work toward ethnic, racial, gender, sexual orientation, religious, and language diversity in our membership, it should be reflected in our staff. Diversity is no longer a “should do” thing. Data shows that it is a must achieve reality which positions an organization to succeed today and in the future.