Posted on Jun 08, 2022

On Wednesday, June 8th, our speaker was Claudia Menendez, who serves as Fort Collins’ first “chief” diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer. Her personal journey began in El Salvador. Along the way, she collected a BA in Latin American studies, an MA in Equity and Cultural Diversity and worked in related fields in PSD preparing her for this newly created job in our favorite city.

Her first 2 slides illustrated the important difference between equality (the same thing for all) and equity (meeting the needs of different groups). DEI is about people, shared humanity, and community values. Learning the “social tapestry” of Ft Collins is her prerequisite for moving the City forward. The places we can apply DEI were illustrated by icons representing current Ft Collins services (eg, transportation, medical services, housing, etc).
Following community input the old 2020 Strategic Objective was revised for 2022 – “Advance equity for all, with emphasis on racial justice, to remove systemic barriers so that persons of all identities, including race, ethnicity, religion, gender and gender identity, age, class, sexual orientation, mental and physical abilities can fully participate in City services and experience equitable community outcomes.”
An Equity Indicator Dashboard is now available with published indicators (criminal justice and public safety, housing and homelessness, economic health, and opportunity) and pending indicators (civic engagement, public health, environmental justice, and transportation). This seeks to identify and correct systemic barriers and direct allocation of resources. Recently a community forum held on criminal justice and housing was attended by more than 100 participants.
Belonging (feeling safe and welcome), dignity (the sacred nature of one’s personhood) and justice (repairing and restoring individuals) recognize and describe the humanity we all share.
Next Rotary members were presented with a wheel-like depiction of “identity” and asked to answer 3 questions in our small table groups – 1) Which 3 identities shape you? 2) Which of these identities is lesser known to people around you? and 3) Which identity is most valuable/impactful to you personally?
A “Wheel of Power and Privilege” illustrated what the term “marginalization “means - the further you from power, the more unimportant you feel.  For those not in power (think Latino/Immigrant families), building your cultural competence includes issues involving legal status, language development and cultural spanning.  A census map of Ft Collins identifies those with the least likelihood of upward mobility.
Finally, how can we help? (Or what is an ally?)  An ally is one who takes action to support an underrepresented group, takes responsibility for making changes that will help others to be successful and finds ways to use their privilege to work and elevate others who do not have equitable access.