In 2020, lots of discussions regarding racial equality occurred – including at HVAF. The organization knew it was time to make more efforts on diversity inclusion, which lead to the creation of the HVAF Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.
Clinical Case Manager Shawnita has worked at HVAF for 10 years. She says she likes to be reserved at work and not get too involved. But in 2020, she knew she needed to step out more. While knowing racism has occurred for centuries, she knows it has been brought to the forefront in the last few years.
“I think with that (George Floyd’s death) happening, people started visualizing what actually it is, I think it started the movement of, ‘Hey look, now we’re going to start having these conversations,’” Shawnita said. “But it makes everybody so uncomfortable that they didn’t want to do it. But now it’s just like bam, it’s put in people’s laps at this point. Now we have to talk about it, it’s like people were forced to grapple with it.”
In the summer of 2020, former HVAF President & CEO Brian Copes held listening sessions for HVAF employees that identify as POC. This was a way for them to share any experiences they wanted to bring up to him, and to ensure a safe space for everyone. After Shawnita’s discussion with Brian, he asked her if she wanted to lead an internal diversity group for staff.
Although she felt scared to lead it, she knew she had to say yes.
“Even though I try to stay safe in my office, I feel like sometimes God uses people to move you in the direction to your destiny. I really feel like this was meant for me to do,” Shawnita said. “I felt like it was my duty to do so. This is how I can improve somebody’s life.”
Last year, the group worked on choosing a speaker to lead a session on diversity for all employees. This year, they are brainstorming other ways for staff to have the opportunity to discuss topics on diversity together. While race is a very important topic Shawnita wants to address, she said she wants the group to focus on all diversity: sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
Shawnita said she is very happy about being able to lead HVAF’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful that HVAF wants to do this. It speaks volumes to me. Just the fact that they are open to even having a diversity group, and actually listening to those suggestions and making those changes is huge,” Shawnita said. “Who wouldn’t want to work for a place like that?”