On October 5, an article was published in the Columbus Dispatch narrating experiences of marginalization and institutional racism at one of our partner organizations, Equitas Health. This call-in from 15 current and former BIPOC employees has been followed by statements in solidarity released by leading organizations across the state, including a letter from The Queer Partnership for Black Liberation (QPBL), with recommendations and demands established by current and former employees of Equitas. We amplify and elevate the call for these demands from QPBL and current and former employees of Equitas.
When harm is inflicted, it is paramount that the wishes of the harmed party are sincerely centered, and that the individual or institution that caused the harm does not shy away from their discomfort. We commit to mindfully sitting with any discomfort that arises within us, and we invite Equitas leadership, specifically their C-Circle, to do the same.
We believe BIPOC staff when they share experiences of racism and anti-Blackness. Knowing you will be believed is empowering. We call on ourselves as an organization as well as our partners to always create space for people who have been harmed by racial injustice and offer the opportunity for staff to honestly name their experiences. It’s not easy to speak up without knowing whether your colleagues will believe you and stand alongside you. We unequivocally stand in solidarity with current and former BIPOC Equitas employees and commit to continuing the work of modifying our own organizational structure to model the working world we want to see.
Equality Ohio is in the process of unlearning and self-reflection, and this is a clear opportunity to address head-on the racism that exists in nonprofit leadership and organizational culture, even within already marginal spaces. We recognize that Equitas’ statement on October 7 did not meet the moment and that many among us may be feeling even more harm after reading it. Specifically, Equitas does not appear to fully commit to the first two requests made by QPBL and Equitas staff. Apology for harm and commitment to the real work of becoming anti-racist and pro-Black are paramount in this journey. We strongly encourage Equitas to revisit the demands of their BIPOC employees.
Equitas provided a subsequent statement from its board on October 12. We acknowledge that the organization has committed to conducting an internal investigation, and we ask for transparency in this process and that Equitas employees who have and continue to speak out be protected against retaliation.
We owe a debt of gratitude for the emotional and intellectual labor from BIPOC leaders within Equitas who spoke up, listed demands, and invited us into their lives. We utilize their work as motivation to build a world that is better for those in our community and especially for those with the most at stake. This is a gift that is not owed to us. The labor of creating this list of demands, in particular, is invaluable, and we recognize that there is risk in sharing it.
Those who came forward have been specific and thoughtful in their requests for positive reconciliation. All of our organizations should be considering the equitable principles embodied by these requests, some of which even apply to our interpersonal relationships.
We are, all of us, on a journey of (un)learning. And as we accept the imperfections and humanity in all of us, we must admit when we mess up. We also must recognize the reality of organizational power-over dynamics, and the legacy of white in supremacy that permeates workplace cultures—even those within already marginal spaces.
To truly push past the harm done here—whether intentionally or unintentionally—we must embrace transformative and restorative justice, and the difficult conversations and hard decisions that come with those processes. We invite conversations with any former or current Equitas staff members as they navigate this process.
Our BIPOC LGBTQ+ leaders have called upon all of us to engage in serious self-reflection at this moment. Equality Ohio commits to considering the list entirely, reflecting on our own culture, policies, and expectations both from staff and of leadership. We amplify the call of our BIPOC leaders and encourage others within our community to do the same so that we all can be proactive in ensuring no more employees are subject to workplace racism and anti-Blackness. That is the world we aim for, the future we hope to build with you.