As an adult, I haven’t been much of a writer and putting this blog post together was a stretch.  Come on; it’s the first post from the Diversity Committee. From the black woman on the committee. Would this set the tone for how the committee would operate?  Was everything going to be about race? A “woe is me” to the struggles of being a minority in Polka Dot Powerhouse? *sigh*

 

I guess the best way to start is to tell you when I realized how much diversity and inclusion mattered...

 

February 2006 (or May 2007) I walked in late to the office-wide staff meeting. As I sat down, it dawned on me that the room was dark, and the television was on. Focusing on the screen, I saw Kunta Kente run across. Oh Lord, we’re watching Roots.

 

A gentleman leaned over and whispered “It’s black history month. We’re watching Roots.”

 

What?!

 

The snippet for the day finished playing, and the same man got up to say, “We don’t understand the struggle of black congregants.” No sh*t. He continued to go on and talk about how the church leadership did not understand black Americans. I realized they based their best understanding of black Americans on a movie. I was in utter shock. That’s the most relevant representation of black people they could come up with? I knew that they hadn’t even thought to ask any of the two other black people in the building, “Hey, do you think showing 20-minutes of this movie about slavery would be beneficial to our staff.” They didn’t. Was staff diverse? For Lincoln, sure. Was it inclusive? No.

 

At 22 years old (maybe 23) I didn’t know what to do. I did see that I couldn’t stay in that environment anymore. One where on my first day on the job I was asked if I would be attending the black church, but they couldn’t tell me the name or where it was located. There were only seven (if that many) churches in town! An office that I had to integrate. With colleagues that were guarded with questions because they didn’t know any black people and rather than just come out with what they wanted to know (like they would with any new white person) they walked on eggshells when looking at my hair. I worked with 15+ people on a regular basis, and only one was honest enough to say that they had not talked to any black people before they met me. Just one who said “good job” when I changed my hair from copper to red. Only one person who was open about themselves with me and gave me the space to do the same.

 

When I left Lincoln, I was going to miss the friends I made there, but there were no regrets. I was over being the diversity quota. I wanted to be included - in the decision making, in the community, in the ways that matter. That’s what I wish for all members of Polka Dot Powerhouse. To not walk into a room of people who view this as an educational moment, but to walk into a room of friends who can say, “Wow. I’m so glad we met. I’m excited for us to learn from one another.”

 

I can’t teach you about black America.  I can tell you about myself and my view of the world.

 

 

Chyla is a member of the Arvada PDP chapter and the President of CNRG Accounting Advisory, LLC where she helps nonprofits reflect their mission in their finances.  When she’s not behind her computer, she might be baking, listening to podcasts at the gym, or hoping to go to sleep.