“Businesses can do a LOT to support people of color in the area,” said Julius Turner, a member of the Steering Committee of the Upper Valley BIPOC Network (UVBN), at a recent meeting of the Vital Communities Corporate Council. “The Corporate Council has the power to make a difference.”
Julius was joined by fellow Steering Committee member Alisha Robinson, who urged the Corporate Council to “show up! Show up as leaders!” She specifically suggested that companies be intentional with their hiring, pointing out that if people of color do not see themselves represented in a company, they’re less likely to stay, or to see themselves in leadership positions. “There’s not much representation of POCs on this screen,” she commented about the virtual meeting.
Weiwei Wang, Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Vermont Professionals of Color Network, focused on the importance of facilitating professional and community connections. “The BIPOC community is already battling generational trauma, so how do you get over that and connect with people?” she asked. “We need to help BIPOC find opportunities – opening up the aperture so that people will find ways to expand their connections, not just using their own networks.”
Weiwei highlighted the Network’s priority areas and services, which include a jobs board, a platform for posting and learning about civic engagement opportunities, and a new service, “Newcomer Nexus,” which helps Vermont businesses and organizations recruit people of color from out of state by engaging with new hire candidates during the interview process and upon their relocation to VT. She urged the Corporate Council to invest in BIPOC organizations and events, procure from BIOPOC-owned companies, and “get to know people as human beings – be humans together!”
Wrapping up the presentations, James McKim, President of the NAACP Manchester Chapter, reminded the participants, “DEI needs to be something you do every day. Communicate the importance of DEI in the community, and make it the norm. Use your voice.” He urged the Council to consider measures such as:
At the same time, James highlighted that individual businesses also have a role to play and that “accountability is key.”
With almost all of the Corporate Council members attending the meeting, major employers in the area had a valuable opportunity to hear these calls to action, and to learn about the opportunities and resources that they can leverage in advancing DEI in the Upper Valley. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Julius at the conclusion of the meeting.
“That was an exceptional meeting and discussion,” said Jenny Levy, Corporate Council Chair, to the speakers after the meeting.” Thank you for teaching your truth. Thank you for sharing your expertise. Thank you for sharing your bold challenges. I am humbled to have learned from you this morning. On behalf of the Corporate Council members, we are so grateful.”
About the Corporate Council
For 18 years, Vital Communities’ Corporate Council has brought together top representatives of locally based employers and social service agencies to listen and respond to the challenges people face. Council members represent more than 12,000 employees, connecting the Council to more than half of the households in our region. Vital Communities is the Council’s convener and administrator, and sub-groups include the Housing Advisory Committee, Early Childhood Education working groups, a DEI Community of Practice, and a Workforce Development group.