The following content was originally distributed through IMPACT Silver Spring's February e-newsletter.
In the aftermath of the presidential election, we find ourselves confronted with the reality of a vastly divided nation. And while Montgomery County is well-regarded for its commitment to diversity and inclusion, the unfortunate truth is that racial and socio-economic divisions have existed in Montgomery County throughout its history, and continue to manifest in the present. Significant gaps exist among different racial and ethnic groups when it comes to academic achievement, income levels, home ownership, incarceration rates, and health outcomes. Despite the County’s best intentions to create inclusivity, many people of color struggle to achieve a basic quality of life.
Undoubtedly, we have much work to do to bridge our racial and class divides. A critical step towards strengthening social connections and mutual understanding in our communities is acknowledging racism as a root cause of these on-going disparities. Left unaddressed, racism and its effects – including unexamined issues of unconscious bias and privilege - will continue to keep people divided from and distrustful of one another, generate unequal outcomes for many people of color, and ultimately prevent Montgomery County from realizing its full potential as a thriving multicultural community.
Closing divides, and strengthening social connections and mutual understanding across lines of race and class is at the heart of IMPACT’s work. As we press forward in the months and years ahead, we will bring greater intention to addressing racism as a root cause of our divisions. Below is a sneak peek into some of the initiatives we have planned for this year. We look forward to continuing our collective work to build an abundant Montgomery County.
Speak Truth: Acknowledging and Confronting the Racism That Divides Us
Please join us at our annual IMPACT NOW event on May 4th, where we will begin a community conversation on the impact of historical and structural racism on inclusiveness and quality of life for residents in Montgomery County. In order to understand our present condition, we need to understand our past. At this event, we will explore how historical and structural racism connect to today’s challenges, and perpetuate disparate outcomes for communities of color. You can register, and read more about the event by clicking here.
Local Economy and Community Wealth-Building
IMPACT will embark on a systems transformation initiative aimed at addressing the growing income and wealth gap. Using a community-centered, network-building approach, we will ignite, shape, and support the development of a local economy system that enables people traditionally left out of economic enterprise opportunities to build and own a network of micro, small, and cooperative businesses – leading to increased financial security, assets, and community wealth. This systems transformation effort has evolved from our work with a growing network of immigrant micro-entrepreneurs in addressing structural barriers to economic and income-generating opportunities.
Building Neighborhood-Based Networks
IMPACT will continue its core work of transforming culture at the neighborhood level by strengthening relationships of trust and understanding across lines of difference, and building neighborhood-based networks of support and action. IMPACT’s work is premised on the idea that a community thrives when neighbors know and support one another – especially across lines of difference. These relationships of mutual support and trust are vital to the long-term health of diverse communities, and also enable neighbors to respond together in times of crisis. In the early days of the new Presidential administration, many in our network are fearful and anxious as they face an unknown future. Now, more than ever, the strengthening of neighborhood-based networks is needed to support our communities in meeting the unexpected challenges ahead. You can stay up to date with neighborhood network activities and events through our calendar of events.
Network Weaver Learning Training
We will be piloting a 4-month learning program this spring, with plans to formally launch in the fall. The learning program seeks to grow the number of residents who are active participants in transforming neighborhood culture from one of isolation and division – to one of connection, trust, and belonging. The program will offer in-depth learning, coaching, and peer-to-peer support for diverse residents from all across Montgomery County. A core component of the program is transforming individual attitudes and interpersonal relationships by increasing self and cultural awareness and competence. More details for the fall launch will be announced this summer.