Tuesday, January 04, 2011

True change happens when people with power allow themselves to be uncomfortable

"Too much equity, diversity, and multicultural education work is shaped to be comfortable and easily digestible."
~ Donna Ennis

By Donna Ennis

I believe that too much equity, diversity, and multicultural education work is shaped to be comfortable and easily digestible. While I believe that people need some level of comfort in order to grow, in order to ”inform ourselves,” I also believe that true change can happen only when people, and particularly people with power, allow themselves to be vulnerable to difficult and sometimes uncomfortable dialogue. This dialogue is the first step toward greater change in our schools and communities.

Diversity in Our Community

It is my goal to help affect change in individuals, schools, communities, and society by working with people and organizations at any level of awareness or development along the diversity, cultural competence, inclusion, and equity continuum that are committed to positive change.
The people with power often sit at the table and support diversity efforts but at what price? It is my opinion that our lame duck county attorney Melanie Ford is out of office because of her support of racial justice efforts in our community.

Moving Forward to Accountability
The Duluth Task Force for Improved Accountability (DTFICPA) held a community report-back session on December 6 to share the final draft proposal for establishing a Civilian Review Board for the police department. The overall goal of this effort is to strengthen trust and respect between the police and all aspects of the Duluth community.

For civilian review to work, it must have the widespread support of the community, the confidence of complainants and potential complainants, the cooperation of the police department, and a supportive legal and procedural infrastructure. The results of the community and police meetings and surveys clearly show community support and confidence in civilian oversight. The results also show that police personnel are open to civilian oversight, and that there is support for the concept among the DPD command staff.

Improving Racial Justice
The American Bar Association (ABA) has selected St. Louis County as one of four sites in the nation to receive a two-year grant to support a racial justice improvement project. The other three grant recipients are Brooklyn, NY; the State of Delaware; and New Orleans, LA.
A six-person team from St. Louis County traveled to Washington, DC in October to receive training in developing and implementing the project. The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is designed to address the effectiveness of juvenile detention across the United States by helping jurisdictions restructure policy and practice to create system improvements that reach far beyond detention. I think the time is right to also determine whether the rate of minorities involved in the adult criminal justice system is disproportionate. We will be using a five-step process to determine the degree to which racial disparity exists in our criminal justice system in St. Louis County.

Donna Ennis is a licensed social worker and the regional director of PATH. She is co-chair of the Duluth American Indian Commission, a member of the task for the Duluth police department civilian review board, member of the JDAI committee, a member of the Racial Justice Improvement Project, a commentator for Minnesota Public Radio and a blogger known as Donna Changing Elk.

She says: I am a diversity change agent and as such am tasked with informing the community of great diversity efforts as well as opportunities to improve social justice. For more in depth discussions visit www.donnachangingelk.areavoices.com Changing Elk is able to adapt to her surroundings similar to a chameleon. Many people in the dominant culture will not even sense my presence among them as I do my work.