Courtesy of The Avarna Group, www.theavarnagroup.com, 5/25/2019

June 19th, 2020

 “Health is not just the sense of completeness in ourselves but also is the sense of belonging to others and to our place; it is an unconscious awareness of community, of having in common.” ~ Wendell Berry

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd lost his life in Minneapolis, MN. Being from a military family, I’m mindful that May 25th was a federal holiday which honors the men and women who gave their lives in military service to the U.S. The events that have unfolded since that day have opened a new wound in our national conscience and have sent me to a deep place of introspection. Like many of you, I’ve been listening and learning and soul-searching, and will continue to do so. And I acknowledge and respect the guidance from friends and colleagues to lean into my discomfort. I’m leaning in, and I also can’t wait until I’m comfortable to take action. Always one to weigh every angle and consider every option to avoid a misstep, I must remember not to let the search for perfect action lead to paralysis or belated action.

After engaging in conversations with organizations that are laser-focused on issues of racism, inclusiveness and health equity and with several members of the HERO Board of Directors, I’m committing HERO to some early actions:

  • In our Think Tanks, Forums and webinars, we will include topics that feature culture, race and bias (conscious and unconscious);
  • In our partnerships and collaborations, we will seek out groups and organizations that are exemplary leaders in these areas specifically; and
  • In our leadership (Board of Directors), we will continue to espouse principles of diversity and inclusion.

You can hold us accountable to these early commitments, and I ask you to engage in ongoing dialogue with us as we seek new ways to support our vision that all workplaces will positively impact the health and well-being of (all) employees, families and communities. The uncomfortable conversations must become part of the “new normal.” Please reach out to us and let us know:

  • What do you as a professional, and/or your organization as an employer, need with respect to learning and development that features health equity?
  • What can HERO do to support our members, the field, the industry to become more inclusive?
  • What organizations that are leading in social justice and health equity should HERO seek out as partners and whose missions should be amplified?

This week, I’ve been considering how the HERO team might honor Juneteenth – Emancipation Day, June 19th. While it is not a federal holiday, 47 states recognize it as a state holiday (including all of our team members’ home states) but traditionally even that has meant little more than a proclamation by the governor. It would be easy for me to make it a paid holiday for our staff, but that seems almost trite and opportunistic for an all-white group. Therefore, I have challenged the staff to consider what they can do today to commemorate this 155-year-old holiday that celebrates the emancipation of African-Americans from slavery in the U.S. In this viral pandemic, volunteer options are more limited than they might be otherwise, but options exist nonetheless. There is an ample supply of recommended books, audiobooks, videos, podcasts, songs, poems and articles to educate oneself on the Black Lives Matter movement, racial equality and social justice. So I’m declaring June 19th a paid HERO holiday, with one caveat: do something that honors the lived experiences of black and brown people.

In the days and weeks ahead, you will learn more about how our words have become action, from the revised themes of our Fall Think Tank and HEROForum20 to a members-only invitation for ongoing virtual dialogue to a collection of recommended resources on these topics. In the words of one of HERO’s Board members:

We need to look at the ABC’s of change.

A – Admit we have a national problem

B – Believe we (together) can make a change

C – Commit to being part of the ongoing journey for change

I’m encouraged by the HERO team’s willingness to lean into the discomfort of this teachable moment and the HERO Board’s wise guidance in these uncertain and historic moments. They deepen my resolve that HERO will be a valuable ally in the national momentum that is building.

Together,

Karen

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