Happy Community Action Month!

For Community Action Month, we are celebrating the work of an incredibly diverse network by hearing directly from one of our members. Leslie Taylor, of the California Department of Community Services and Development, took some of her precious time and shared a little bit about the racial equity work that has been happening in CA. We hope you enjoy learning about their work and are as inspired as we at NASCSP are by the work they continue to spearhead at the state and local level. Happy reading!

The California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD), the state’s CSBG lead office, has long supported efforts to improve racial equity and inclusion. Even if we have not called it that, equity has always inherently been a focus of the department. Today, CSD is actively developing a better understanding of how equity practices are being incorporated across our diverse network and assessing how successfully CSD as a department has adopted equity practices.

Over the years, CSD has provided implicit bias training for staff along with introducing racial equity concepts and best practices to our network of service providers. CSD continues to recognize the importance of bringing a stronger equity lens to our programs and our department to ensure we are supporting those communities that have been disadvantaged by structural racial inequities.

CSD is currently taking part in several initiatives, including the California Health and Human Services Agency’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Subcommittee, the California Strategic Growth Council’s Health in All Policies Task Force, and the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) Racial Equity Workgroup. Our goal is to increase our knowledge base and in turn implement additional strategies that incorporate equity into our day-to-day operations.

Not only are activities taking place at the state level, but the California CSBG Network is also actively developing and implementing racial equity strategies at the local level.  Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County (CAP Sonoma), a nonprofit community action agency, is one of many local providers that have embraced racial equity.

CAP Sonoma began “Community Conversations on Race”, a series of transparent, honest, and oftentimes uncomfortable conversations on Facebook Live. The agency felt a strong need for vulnerability to talk, connect, and have discussions publicly that were usually behind closed doors. What started as an eight-part series turned into a regularly scheduled program, with over sixty conversations to date. Their Facebook conversations have covered a variety of topics and featured a diverse group of panelists and moderators. In 2021 CAP Sonoma staff traveled to Boston to give a presentation on Community Conversations on Race at the National Community Action Partnership (NCAP) Convention, in addition to beginning a bi-weekly radio show on the prominent Bay Area radio station, KSRO.

In addition to the conversations, one CAP Sonoma staff member was trained as a Racial Healing Circle facilitator through a cohort sponsored by the CAP National. Last year their Executive Team participated in a Healing Circle and this month they will be holding a session with their Board of Directors.

California’s racial equity efforts, along with those of many other states and local CSBG agencies, will continue until the barriers that have impeded equity for vulnerable populations have been eradicated.