As we move through Black History Month, I reflect on what this annual observance means to Thrive Support & Advocacy, our community, and the entire nation. The racial injustices of the past year have caused us to pause and examine how far we have come, while at the same time realizing there is still much to be done. As a human services professional and a longtime advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I can’t help but draw parallels between the continued fight for justice, inclusion, and equality for both persons of color and the disability community.
Fighting for these fundamental rights is at the core of Thrive’s mission. We have been advocating for equality and inclusion for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities for more than 40 years. The organization was founded by a group of caring parents who wanted to provide their loved ones the same opportunities and experiences as those without disabilities.
The goal was to create a life where people with disabilities were treated justly and respectfully – the way everyone should be treated. Over the years, this type of advocacy has brought awareness and change, just as it has for those facing racial inequity. But the experiences of 2020 have underscored the critical need to continue fighting for these rights.
The traumatic events of this past year have brought to light the intolerable inequities that our nation faces regarding race and ethnicity. Even within our own profession, one built upon the ideals of compassion, support, and opportunity, employees of color and immigrants face disparities. The experiences of our colleagues and the racial tragedies that played out on TV and social media has prompted us – and should prompt organizations of all types – to look inward and contemplate what we could do to bring about meaningful change. With the waves of uncertainty brought on by the pandemic beginning to calm, we must focus on how to best provide a diverse, equitable, and inclusive space not only for those we support, but also for the broader communities in which we live.
This reflection and focus has helped us learn a new truth: Only by acknowledging the past and moving forward toward a future of equity can we begin to heal. And once healing begins, the next course of action is education and training.
At Thrive, we are developing a plan that puts diversity, equity, and inclusion at the core of all organizational operations. Our renewed and invigorated commitment to embracing these values will make the organization stronger and enable us to be more purposeful in our mission. It’s my hope that other organizations will follow similar paths.
My reflection on Black History Month has prompted me, as an African American man, to be forever grateful for the people of color that came before me, who set the foundation for the Black community and all people fighting for inclusion. I am hopeful that with reflection, healing, action, and continued open dialogue, we will collectively bring about change for all, regardless of disability, race, or ethnicity.
I look forward to a future of justice for all.
Thrive Support & Advocacy
President & CEO