Initiatives newsletter

Leading with Equity – Sector Leadership Spot

July 27, 2020

By Adolph P. Falcón, National Alliance for Hispanic Health

Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Carlos Ingram-Lopez. Killed by police and Floyd and Ingram-Lopez, in their last minutes of life calling out to breathe and then Floyd for his mother and Ingram-Lopez… “Nana, ayúdame.”

While media has focused on the fury that followed, I’ve heard something else. Frustration and exhaustion. These are not new events nor are they unexpected consequences of a system in which racial and ethnic discrimination are baked into our social and political fabric.

A son of South Texas, I grew up with the Tex-Mex version of the talk, the stories of Mexican lynchings at the Goliad Hanging Tree, the frustration of being stopped by State police to check my legal status, and the pain of police beating my mother, an event never discussed but discovered in organizing my family papers. While the stories of current protests are about anger, I hear frustration that another generation has to take up this fight. I hear the exhaustion of carrying the burden of history and unanswered calls for action.

Well-meaning words, full page mea culpa ads, and commercials about solidarity simply will not suffice. As human services leaders, we cannot rightfully call for national action without taking stock of our own organization’s actions. To examine the work of the organizations in which we serve, I offer three questions to ask and to answer honestly for the path ahead.

  1. Who is our leadership? Part of effectively serving communities, is diverse leadership that will ask the questions and hear input in ways that serve equity. Hispanics are one in five persons in this country, but rarely in nonprofit leadership. We need a true diversity of experiences, including those of emerging leaders. A model equity statement and resources are available from the National Human Services Assembly (NHSA) Equity and Human Services resource site.
  2. Are we listening? Meaningful work must be driven by the lived experiences of those we seek to serve. Among the resources available, the American Public Human Services Association offers their Call to Action for Human Services and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health offers the Healthy Americas Survey profiling Hispanic community priorities at the intersection of health and human services.
  3. Are we taking action? Less than 2% of philanthropy goes to Hispanic communities and race is a factor in nonprofit funding. National human services organizations can have an impact by funding equity work and providing adequate funding to community organizations when seeking their partnership. The megaphone of the organizations represented under the umbrella of NHSA is powerful. Our policy staffs range in size, but the impact can be extraordinary if we all look at solution-oriented work that can be implemented to address structural discrimination. As a starting point I would recommend to you the Blueprint for Changemakers and its introductory video from ChangeLab Solutions.

These times call for equity to be central to the mission and work of all human services organizations. My friends and colleagues, I believe in your intentions, trust your hearts, and pray for real action so that this is the last generation burdened.

Adolph P. Falcón is the Executive Vice President at National Alliance for Hispanic Health and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Assembly Business Services. He also previously served as Treasurer on the Board of the National Human Services Assembly.