2020 marks an important year for our commitment to our client communities. This month, we kick off our collective discussions about the link between racism and antipoverty practice, and how we can better partner with our clients to combat racism and truly effectuate social justice. We are excited for the work to come, and for our partnership with a local diversity, equity, and inclusion consultancy, The Mosaic Collaborative (TMC), as we engage in deeper analysis of our role as antipoverty advocates.
DeAngela Cooks and Taunya Black, the amazing team behind TMC, kindly agreed to offer a few reflections on their roles, in honor of the commencement of our collective journey. I am thrilled to share those reflections with you here. (Please note that their contact information is included at the end, should you feel inspired to reach out to them.)
In so many ways, this year is sure to be full of soul-searching and self-reflection. I look forward to your support and participation as we begin our collective discussions, and as we work to bring those discussions to life.
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Please describe the path that led you to specialize in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. What inspired you to pursue this area of focus?
TMC: For us, our entire life has led us to this moment of pursuing DEI. We didn’t need to go to school and earn a degree for it, we didn’t have to…our life experiences were the ultimate training ground. Growing up as Black, Queer, cis-gendered women, we’ve encountered so many moments that called various parts of our identity into question. It got to a point where we found ourselves perpetually speaking up for ourselves and others, while simultaneously confronting unfair power structures and placing ourselves on the frontline to combat racial inequities. The tipping point for us happened when we attended graduate school to become trained Marriage & Family Therapists and encountered unchecked racist rhetoric and practices interwoven within the school’s policies, curriculum, and instruction. Historically, we knew how inherently racist the mental health field has been toward marginalized folx, but we received first-hand knowledge on how these ideas get passed down. In the middle of our graduate studies, we knew it was critical that we provide a mental health lens on DEI work because they are not exclusive.
What inspired you to collaborate with BayLegal on a racial justice/DEI initiative?
TMC: A lot of the populations that BayLegal serves happen to be the very same populations we’ve worked with at various points in our careers. The clientele that BayLegal serves was an immediate selling point for us. We’ve worked with a myriad of populations (homeless, Black and Brown youth and families, undocumented, those impacted by incarceration and more) that would be prime candidates for BayLegal’s services. Acquiring quality legal representation is a luxury that many can’t afford and to know there’s an organization out there that provides attorneys specifically for people who look like us is more than refreshing.
Please describe how you view your role as racial justice/DEI consultants for BayLegal.
TMC: We see our role as a coach. We are here to observe, gather data, listen, analyze, teach, challenge and encourage. We believe in using the experience in the room to be our guide. If we feel problematic power dynamics emerging in the room, we will speak to that in the moment and sit with it until we reach some type of resolve. In our society, we’ve been taught to shy away from all things politics, religion and race. Fortunately, TMC doesn’t have that mantra.
We don’t have a DEI cape that we put on when we wake up and take off when we return home. Every day we have to navigate what it means to be in a queer marriage with one another and raise our two Black daughters in a world that conspires against their success. We don’t have the option of not being committed to true Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, because at the end of the day, it will be our children who will suffer.