Beginning on December 26, 2022, and continuing through January 18, 2023, Sonoma County was battered by a series of rainstorms that, resulted in death, loss, and devastating economic impacts to working families who typically experience institutional marginalization and underservice during disaster response and recovery. While these impacts did not result in a federal major disaster declaration, many local families were impacted by housing, food, and income instability due to weeks of lost work and ongoing power outages.
On December 6, the Office of Equity staff presented its draft Vision, Mission, and Values to the Board of Supervisors for discussion and approval. Working on a short timeline and with limited resources to deeply engage our beloved community, the Office held conversations in different formats with the community to seek feedback on earlier drafts of the Vision and Mission statements and on our Values.
The Office of Equity is getting ready to launch its Core Team Steering Committee!The Steering Committee will be a small working group of about 12 Core Team members, who will be actively engaged, and will work in service of and as the operational heart of the full Core Team. The group will keep the pulse of the County’s internal community and will be grounded in the realities of Sonoma County communities.
In order to maximize our capacity, we will transition to a bi-monthly cadence for our newsletter. You can expect our next edition in early October 2022. Thank you for your interest in our work.
Intern Spotlight: Early on in my freshman year at the University of Notre Dame, one of my professors prompted my class with an eye-opening question: what is the difference between fitting in and belonging? As I reflected, I learned that fitting in involves changing oneself to seek acceptance from others, while belonging is gaining that same acceptance as one already is. In the words of Brené Brown, research professor with the University of Houston, “The opposite of belonging is fitting in. Because fitting in is assessing a group of people and thinking, ‘Who do I need to be? What do I need to say? What do I need to wear? How do I need to act?’ True belonging never asks us to change who we are - it demands that we be who we are.”
The Office of Equity will suspend the editorial letters that you have been seeing at the top of this newsletter. We appreciate the opportunity to share our perspectives about relevant issues in this space. However, as much as we enjoy doing this work, delivering this kind of deep thinking and writing also requires a proportional investment of time and resources. Due to our limited capacity, we will be focusing on sharing updates about our work moving forward.
We condemn the senseless murders of Black community members in Buffalo, NY on the latest racist hate crime grounded on white supremacist ideologies. The Buffalo massacre further highlights the responsibility that we have as a society, and in our local community, to call these hateful and racist actions what they are, from the media to conversations in our own homes, and to work to demand actions that would prevent them from happening again.
We open our April newsletter with this picture, which so deeply portrays the pride Black and other women of color feel as we see the first Black woman being elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States. This historic moment affirms many of us, reminds us of the possibilities that lie ahead, provides an opportunity to feel and express the deep gratitude for the strong shoulders on which we stand, and ensures that we recognize our responsibility to continue creating new paths for future generations. We invite you to read the NAACP statement on Judge Jackson’s confirmation and sign a virtual card congratulating her.
On March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day and throughout this month we honor the women of color on whose shoulders we stand today, who have passed their joy, advice, and wisdom on to us so that we can continue taking meaningful steps towards achieving gender and racial equity.
As a person of color who is not Black or African American, I share this reflection grounded in humility. American history is Black history, and yet, it doesn't show up in the books as it was, as it truly happened. The history we are taught is of a country building greatness, achieving prosperity, and economic stability, though really not for all. What most books do not tell us is that this so-called “greatness” was achieved on the backs of enslaved Africans and their children, who were trafficked and abused for the exclusive progress of White Americans.
We begin this year by grounding ourselves in the constant need to center communities of color in our work. Recently released data from the Portrait of Sonoma provides us a timely example of how to model this practice. This report revises key measurements of health, wealth and education in Sonoma County and compares these data across race, ethnicity, gender and geography, creating a detailed picture of inequities across communities.
As we begin winding down 2021 and looking forward towards 2022, we reflect on the growth of our Office, the creation of an intentional community of equity champions within our organization (Core Team), and on the opportunity we have had to set a new table for community participation in government processes.
We celebrate Native American Heritage Month by acknowledging that we sit on Coast Miwok, Southern Pomo, Kashia, and Wappo lands.
Thank you for your patience with our October newsletter. We ended the month with a hard rain, both literally and figuratively. As we tilt our faces up to receive the blessing of the rain, we also honor the courage of Black leaders who have shared their difficult personal and professional experiences with racism. We hold space for Black leaders, staff, and community members who are grieving and angry, frustrated and exhausted, validated and ready for change.
In September, as we celebrate the powerful contributions of the people of the Latin American diaspora, we work to understand the history and the meaning behind the changing ways in which these communities define themselves. From Hispanic to Latino to Latinx to Latine to Chicano to Boricua, inter alia, from diverse thinkers like Kurly Tlapoyawa to Richard Rodriguez, people of the Latin American diaspora have been challenging the boxes that institutions use to define them/us while governments continue to make decisions about terminology that are rooted in the socio-political and economic circumstances of that moment in time. For decades, if not centuries, the conversation has continued.
On August 18, 2020, the Board of Supervisors voted to create the Office of Equity. In their Resolution, the Board recognized that meaningful change and progress only comes with deliberate efforts, and, that with humility, curiosity, and creativity, we can achieve better insights and solutions to achieving a more equitable Sonoma County. As we close our first year and begin the next, we want to share our gratitude, our sense of accomplishment, and our excitement for what lies before us.
We have been busy over the last few weeks launching our Core Team, responding to challenges in engaging our communities to embed cultural responsiveness into the County’s Emergency Operations Plan, collaborating with other County departments to design a process to equitably distribute American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the communities more disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and thinking about the future of our office.
As we end June celebrating LGBTQ+ pride and the recognition of Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday, we also honor the power of intersectionality. While the concept itself refers to the compounding inequities that a person may experience because of identity markers working together -- like race and gender -- intersectionality allows us to understand and celebrate the complexity of our identities, the histories behind them, and to create better solutions for the ways in which we can experience discrimination or marginalization on multiple bases.
As May comes to a close, we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. We celebrate, as we recognize the powerful contributions of AAPI community members and leaders. We mourn and protest, as we recognize the history of violence, misogyny, and racism that our country’s leaders and our citizens have waged against AAPI community members for centuries. And we work to restore, heal, and to create a just future together.
What started with over 70 County employees’ desire to join us in our equity work back in January has now been formalized into our Office of Equity Core Team. We are grateful to staff and leadership for the willingness and commitment to this challenging, meaningful, and important work, and give particular thanks to managers, supervisors, and department heads for working with us to support this new area of professional development with the tools and resources provided by our Office to the benefit of each department and agency, and to the County as a whole.
As we celebrate and welcome the spring season’s sun and warmth, we also acknowledge the sadness and grief that we feel in the face of recent racist and violent events.
During Black History Month, we ground ourselves in the recognition that the Office of Equity would not be here without the work of Black community leaders and members, and their resounding demands for respect and change.
What a windwhirl of emotions this month has been! As we begin our journey into 2021, we share with you Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” which she read at President Biden’s inauguration. This poem beautifully captures much of what we have seen and felt over the last few weeks. We are grateful for the hope and light we see, the ability to breathe a little easier now, and we can see how critical our work will continue to be.
As we approach the end of an emotionally and physically exhausting year, we want to recognize and celebrate our strength and resilience. 2020 has been fraught with many challenges that have tested us all. Between two record-setting wildfires, a painful and stressful campaign season, and a devastating pandemic, we look back on 2020 with grief and sadness, and we stand to face 2021 with strength and hope.
During this time of turmoil and division, we ask our community to consider and center the needs and experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), immigrants, LGBTQ+ folx, and many other groups of people who have experienced harm at the hands of our government throughout the history of this country.
On September 22, 2020 the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors appointed Alegría De La Cruz as the first permanent Director of the Office of Equity.
On August 20, 2020, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors officially established the Office of Equity with an immediate focus on addressing the racialized spike in COVID-19 cases and the higher risks and burdens shouldered by the Latinx and indigenous language-speaking communities. The long-term direction for the Office is to develop strategies and tools to achieve racial equity for all Sonoma County residents.