To our community,
Last week, we sent out a message to the 92Y community denouncing racism and injustice, and pledging our commitment to joining the growing movement across our city and country seeking to counter both. In the message, I mentioned that we planned to roll out a series of specific initiatives designed to advance this agenda. Over the course of this last week, we have done exactly this. Earlier today, we held an all-staff call during which we went over these initiatives in some detail, and I wanted to be sure to do the same for your benefit.
Below is a summary of some of the steps we have taken.
92Y Confronts Hate: This week, we were pleased to launch an important new initiative called 92Y Confronts Hate. The goal of this initiative is to use our many platforms to seek to understand the role that hate and racism play in our society, to give voice to important policymakers and thought leaders from multiple backgrounds who are on the front lines of the struggle against hate, and to take affirmative steps to combat hate and build bridges across communities. Our first event was held on Monday and involved a conversation between our own Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein and Reverend Jacques Andre DeGraff of Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem. These two important faith leaders co-chair Attorney General Letitia James’s Black and Jewish Clergy Roundtable. They had an informative and important conversation entitled Building Bridges: Is It Possible?.
Coming up next on June 15 is a conversation with Anna Deavere Smith, who will discuss upcoming streamings of two of her most lauded works, Twilight: Los Angeles (about the 1992 Los Angeles riots) which is to air on PBS, and Notes from the Field (about racial inequality in the justice system), currently streaming on HBO. In addition, on June 18, we will host another conversation with Rabbi Rubinstein, this one with Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, Spiritual Leader of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, entitled Praying with Our Hearts, Hands and Feet.
Going forward, we are committed to welcoming important voices to our virtual stage, including those from communities that traditionally may not often have been heard from at 92Y. We also hope to host conversations with elected officials at city, state and national levels, as well as cutting-edge artists, focusing on the complicated issue of race in America. Please stay tuned for much more information on this initiative.
Diversity at 92Y: 92Y has done a good job bringing certain underrepresented groups such as women into leadership positions. That said, we have been much less successful at bringing people of color into our mid-level and especially senior and executive management ranks. The situation is one that we need to address.
To this end, we announced on Monday that we had empaneled a committee made up of individuals from across 92Y’s staff. The committee has been asked to look at where we have succeeded and failed as an institution on the important issues of equity and diversity, and to develop recommendations for how to address our failures and take action.
The work of this very important panel is scheduled to commence on Friday. Among other things, their remit is to look comprehensively at 92Y’s hiring practices, how 92Y mentors and trains its employees and how 92Y makes promotion decisions. The goal is for the committee to develop concrete recommendations for changes to bring greater equity and diversity to all levels of our organization. We have asked the committee to complete its work by August 15. Implementing these recommendations and working to bring greater equity and diversity to the organization is and will continue be a priority for us.
Time for Action: Following the senseless killing of George Floyd, executive leadership at 92Y received numerous emails from staff putting forward organizations that fight for equity and diversity with which 92Y could collaborate. As an institution with a long history of collaboration, we will explore several of these organizations to see if working together could make sense. In the meantime, recognizing from the emails that we received that there is a clear desire among many of our staff to get involved with other mission-driven organizations that are close to their hearts, we have offered all staff members two floating holidays to be used during the months of June or July. Several of us have considered using these days to volunteer with other not-for-profits focused on issues of import to us and we are inviting our colleagues to consider doing the same.
Promoting Better Understanding: In recent days, a group of our colleagues of color pointed out that, because I have only been at 92Y for a short time, it might be worthwhile for me to hear perspectives on life at 92Y from our colleagues of color. Accordingly, next week, Rabbi Rubinstein and I will hold a Zoom call with any of these colleagues who wish to join us and share with us their experiences at 92Y. Our hope is that, coming out of this, we will have a better understanding of what we are doing well and where there is room for improvement, allowing us to focus on those areas in need of improvement in the coming weeks and months.
As our institution, alongside our city and nation, continues to grapple with issues of equity and diversity, we will look forward to sharing additional steps that we are taking. In the meantime, we hope that this update is helpful and demonstrates to you our on-going commitment not just to support the cause of equity and diversity in word, but to do so in deed, as well.
Seth Pinsky, CEO