SMGW’s Progress on Racial Equity

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Samaritan Ministry has always strived to make lives better. Through the Next Step Program , we’ve been able to give  individuals and families a hand up so they can lift themselves out of poverty and homelessness. We’ve been there for returning citizens who want to live life to the fullest in the re-entry process. But as we work with individual participants, it is important to recognize and address the systemic issues we’re facing. Since the formation of our Racial Equity and Social Justice Roundtable in February 2021, we’re working to do just that.  

The Roundtable (RT) is a coalition of Samaritan Ministry staff, Board leaders, volunteers, and community members, who have come together to lay out a solid plan to make Samaritan Ministry a stronger force for positive change – both internally and externally. 

Internal Changes 

Samaritan Ministry has been conducting racial sensitivity training for our program volunteers since 2019.  We have now committed to formal, annual  anti-racism training this spring and into the future for our entire Board and Staff, which will be conducted by Ms. Hazel Monae (learn more about her at hazelmonae.com). The Board will have their training during the spring, and SMGW staff will have their training this summer. In addition, all Partner Representatives – those who serve on the Partner Council from various Partner Schools and Churches – are now required to take anti-racism training on an annual basis, based on several options.  These include our own anti-racism training mentioned above, Sacred Ground (an approach sponsored by the Episcopal Church, but led by local, trained leaders), or other approved options.         

Because nonprofits and the Episcopal Church are historically white-dominated institutions, we recognize that equity is something we must work for, not something that we can assume will just happen. That’s why we have committed not only to analyze our organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion, but also to take tangible steps to improve it.  We’ve set hiring goals that will ensure that staff will more nearly reflect the communities we serve, and we’re working right now to reach those goals. While historically most of our caseworkers have been Black, we are actively seeking more caseworkers of color, who reflect the communities they will serve, which are predominantly Black and Brown.  We’ve made recent progress on this goal- stay tuned for upcoming new staff announcements! 

Our staff are important to us and vital to our mission, so staff wellness is key. Employee wellness must be a top priority in any organization that strives for true equity. Our new employee wellness program will include enhanced budget line items dedicated to wellness and allow time during the workday for individual and group wellness activities.  

External Work 

At Samaritan Ministry, we see an opportunity to change not only the individual lives of those who walk through our doors, but to harness the power of the partnership we’ve built over these 35+ years and use it to drive systemic change. Issues such as housing, transportation, public safety, and more, all directly affect our participants, most of whom are people of color.  

This September, passionate staff at our Arlington location, namely Jane Bishop and Louise McCormick, began attending meetings concerning local issues that affect our participants. They have been taking the initiative to collect testimony and questions from participants and report back after the meetings. On Wednesday, February 15, Jane and Louise testified with our participants at the Marcus Alert Town Hall, where community members had a chance to make their voice heard on the critical issue of 911 call responses. Non-police responders who can offer aid safely and quickly would make a significant impact, not only for our participants, but also for all citizens of Virginia, and especially for members of the Black community who are disproportionately mistreated by the police.  

Another step we’ve taken so far is getting involved with the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), a faith-based community organizing effort in DC with affiliates in Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Arlington Counties. We’re excited to work with them on upcoming actions and we hope our Samaritan Ministry Community will join us in supporting WIN and other future advocacy projects. You can start by virtually attending WIN’s 2022 Election Season Action on March 20th! Learn more here: https://www.windc-iaf.org/wins-election-season-action/ 

Written by Communications Associate Ruby Wilson, who is also a member of the Racial Equity and Social Justice Roundtable