It’s Time to Elevate and Learn from BIPOC Leaders: Advancing Equity, Celebrating Black History Month

This blog post is difficult to write. We are at the beginning of Black History Month, yet so many of us are in an unnervingly familiar and traumatic space regarding the killing of yet another Black man, Tyre Nichols, at the hands of law enforcement.

At the Alliance, racial equity and justice are key to our values, mission, and goals. But it is a reoccurring moment like this that reinforces the need for us to name, call out, and address systemic racism and the inequities that continue to harm Black communities today, and ultimately shape the racial and ethnic disproportionalities and disparities we see in the homelessness system.

Although we must be committed to equity and justice all year round, Black History Month is a notable time for recognition and reflection. It is a time to honor Black people for their contributions to this country, despite being systematically terrorized, devalued, and stymied. But it is also a time to think about our own culpability in inequitable systems and practices, and what it means to be anti-racist. This work does seem insurmountable at times, but we are not powerless. There are actions we can take to advance change, especially within the homelessness field.

Introducing the BIPOC Collective

There are two dynamics related to race and ethnicity that are continuously present in the homelessness field: (1) Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) experience homelessness at vastly disproportionate rates; and (2) the homeless system workforce across the country is disproportionately White, particularly within roles with greater responsibility and influence (including positions at the executive level). Some time ago, we asked ourselves: how can the Alliance use its platform to help communities think strategically about racial equity and, also in the process, be more inclusive of BIPOC leaders in terms of learning and engagement? As a result, we decided to create the BIPOC Collective.

The Collective comprises five Black and Brown leaders spread across the country, with the ultimate goal of increasing the diversity of ideas, solutions, and perspectives involved in the work to end homelessness through an equity lens. The Alliance hopes to partner with and elevate the voices of Collective members in this difficult work. Along with other stakeholders, we plan to work together with these leaders to identify barriers and solutions to addressing racial equity at the system or program level. The Alliance will also help provide a space for thought leadership opportunities and engagement with the field; many of the Collective members have been in the homelessness field for countless years, but have not necessarily been seen, or been presented with national opportunities to be heard.

This is just one change the Alliance is making– an important one, as diverse problem solvers are critical in ending homelessness. We will provide more information about the group at our upcoming conference in March. We are looking forward to hearing about their exchanges with many of you at the event. In the meantime, let’s say their names in the spirit of equity and Black History month: Sherri Allen-Reeves, Freddie Hamilton, Dimitri Groce, Jose Vega, and Laura DeLapp.