By Kristin Garris, Organizational Development Director
This past week, many of our Goodwill employees had the opportunity to see and hear Dr. Joy DeGruy speak to a sold-out crowd at the Frauenthal Theater in downtown Muskegon. Dr. Joy DeGruy is a renowned researcher, educator, author, and presenter who has made it her life work to be an ambassador for healing around the issues of race relations, cultural differences, and contemporary social issues.
Dr. Joy’s message rallied deep emotions as she led the audience through a historical recollection of African American culture, white privilege, and the ongoing trauma that continues in our society today. As a white female, I lean into these discussions eager to know more, but acknowledge that my perspective offers only a small glimpse into the struggles of a society that has much to learn about equality and justice. Through Dr. Joy’s teaching, personal work around understanding and acceptance, and through the efforts of Goodwill’s diversity and inclusion activities, I am hopeful that together our organization can grow, learn, and better support the communities we serve.
Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is located in the heart of Muskegon. In a city where over one third of the population is African American, 8% is Hispanic, and 5% is more than two races, we are working to better understand our diverse community so that we may serve them well. In early 2018, our organization formed the Goodwill Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. This committee — diverse in thought, race, culture, and background — has been doing some hard work around improving our understanding of implicit bias, race relations, the importance of relationships, and the powerful act of simply tilting towards love and understanding in all that we do. Our work has already started to make an impact in policy administration and (slow and steady) cultural shifts. To support our efforts further, we recently hired Julian Newman, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, to help us navigate the waters together through thoughtful discussion, internal examination, and eventually institutional saturation.
As we pursue Goodwill’s mission of providing work opportunities, skill development, and family strengthening to the communities we serve, we seek first and foremost to better understand those communities. Our journey will not be a short one, but we are committed to the continued learning and understanding required to positively impact the community we love.