Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love. – Don Miguel Ruiz

April is Celebrate Diversity Month, a time to help people gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other. During this month I encourage you to notice the opportunities you have to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity that surrounds you.

Since July 2020, we’ve committed to a journey to become a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization. It started by creating a DEI task force. Members of the task force engaged in tough conversations and made recommendations to our board, which were quickly implemented. At the same time, our strategic planning team was asked to envision the organization’s future. All agreed SCA needs a diverse collection of voices to make our vision a reality.

Our DEI Committee has created many materials which are now posted on our website.  You will find a summary of Alliance actions since August 2020 as well as our DEI vision. Thank you to everyone on the DEI Task Force, DEI Committee, our Board and our Advisory Council for your commitment to increasing the diversity of our membership, to creating a feeling of being welcomed and included, as well as to increasing awareness of diversity in the workplace and how it impacts business.

At our April General Membership Meeting Leap Solutions gave an update on Covid vaccination efforts and reminded us of the importance of respecting individual and employee rights to accept or refuse vaccination.  Anti-Harassment efforts must extend to employees, friends and family, based on their personal choices.

We also heard about two very effective Sonoma County workforce development programs available through the LIME Foundation and the CTE Foundation.  And as an unexpected benefit, we were touched by Letitia Hanke’s vulnerability in sharing her personal experiences of adversity and disadvantage and how she turned those into today’s opportunities to support seniors, the arts, and a trades academy.  I have so much respect for the work being done by both of these important organizations.

In the month of March, Santa Rosa Junior College passed a resolution supporting the AAPI community and denouncing anti-Asian racism and violence in Sonoma County and beyond.  The Sonoma County Alliance stands in solidarity with the Asian American Pacific Islander community and condemns the harassment and hate crimes toward Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders that have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. We acknowledge that anti-Asian discrimination has persisted in our nation for far too long and it must stop.  The Sonoma County Alliance stands for a healthy economy, healthy environment, and healthy community.  All of these are threatened by bias and racism.  We commit to do our part to educate ourselves and our membership.  We commit to help build a safe, inclusive and equitable community.  We are making progress towards that vision each time our board, advisory council and various committees meet. And DEI education is not a one and done endeavor; it takes constant attention and focus.  And like any work, there can be unfortunate setbacks.

It came to our attention that a now-former member of our organization sent a hateful, racially charged email to a community leader, who is a member of the AAPI community. The person who sent this email used the Alliance name to bolster his credibility. After learning about this email, our leadership team agreed this behavior was unacceptable and does not align with our mission, vision, and values. The behavior contradicted the direction the Alliance is going as a business group. We asked this person to leave our organization and accepted their resignation immediately.  If you have any concerns, comments, or feedback, please reach out and have a conversation with any Alliance leader.

Today we invite you to continue your DEI education by reading over the DEI portion of our website to understand the work we have completed to date.  Additionally, we have an exciting opportunity to join United Way’s 21-day DEI challenge, a powerful chance to develop a deeper understanding of how inequity and racism affect our lives and our community.  The materials are designed to create a short-dedicated time and space in each business day to build more effective social justice habits and inspire change within ourselves and our organizations.  Please consider signing up for the program here by April 21.

Evolving our personal choices and our expectations is part of being human. Being someone who is open to change and eager for learning makes it far easier to engage in a world that can never have too much respect and understanding.

Thank you for being a Sonoma County Alliance member and for all the work you do in our community.  Have a great month.

What are you grateful for today?

Marlene Soiland, 2021 President