Working Toward Racial Equity

Published: April 8, 2021 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

A Message from Our President & CEO

Dr. Les Garner Jr. President & CEO

The Community Foundation strives to use its resources to build a vibrant community. Equity is at the center of community vibrancy—a community cannot be vibrant if it is willing to leave some behind.

We have been committed to equity and inclusion in our practices for many years. We are now working to be even more intentional about how we incorporate equity into what we do. We are not looking for an easy fix or a short-term response, rather we are seeking ways to better understand how we might serve our entire community.

In 2018, Community Foundation staff formed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to consider our culture and practices. The committee identified learning opportunities, and beginning in the fall of 2019, all staff attended a series of implicit bias trainings to better understand our automatic thought processes. Additionally, five Community Foundation staff members have joined the Iowa Council of Foundation’s Racial Equity Cohort, which will last the duration of 2021. Through this group, we will be able to learn from experts and other foundations that are pursuing racial equity in communities across the state. In 2020, the Board of Directors created a Racial Equity Steering Committee to guide its deliberations on issues of equity.

The Community Foundation also remains deeply committed to the work of the Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities (SET) Fund, which was established in 2018. The fund has been actively working to improve safety for our community’s young people. Its broader focus is creating equitable opportunities for youth and families. A large anonymous grant to the SET Fund has brought the Group Violence Intervention model to Cedar Rapids, highlighting the potential of this fund to support meaningful and ambitious undertakings.

One of our recent initiatives is Thrive, a cohort of five emerging Black and Brown leaders. Thrive is a way for us to support emerging organizations and leaders who are having an impact on our community. We are working with these leaders to connect them to community resources and help their organizations grow. We will also be learning from them about how we may better reach all corners of our community.

We are excited about the work we have done in recent years, but recognize that we are at the beginning of this journey. Our staff, board, and committee volunteers are committed to learning about the issues and how we can respond. We look forward to working with new and familiar faces in the pursuit of racial equity in Linn County.

I am optimistic about the opportunities ahead, the future of our organization, and the future of our community. Together, we can make ours a community that works for all its residents.

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