“Celebrate good times, come on! There’s a party going on right here. A celebration to last throughout the year.”
-Kool and the Gang, Celebration
It’s Women’s History Month and Wednesday was International Women’s Day. There is little that I enjoy more than acknowledging and thanking the great people who power our engines in the fight for racial justice.
As you may know, the Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative was established in 2015. Michelle
Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, kicked off a wave of civic engagement to fight social injustices described in her seminal work.
The DRJC was born out of the energy of community organizers using that frame. In its early days, our small-but-mighty collection of civic leaders and volunteers kept a laser-like focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in state government employment.
Cynthia Primo Martin, Ruth Sokolowski, Michelle Basham, and Dr. Michelle Taylor were among the founding members of the DRJC. Then, we were pushing state government to adopt the transformative recommendations of the Ivy Planning Group (lead in part by Janet Crenshaw Smith).
Following George Floyd’s 2020 death and subsequent protest movement, Delawareans in shock and anguish mobilized to join the fight for racial justice. That movement was a strong demonstration of our willingness to reckon with systemic and institutional racism. And the groundswell of new members led Michelle Taylor and the United Way of Delaware to fully embrace the DRJC, where we have been officially powered since then.
Today, the DRJC comprises more than 200 individual and organizational members.
Our work is organized around these impact areas:
- Health equity led by Erin Ridout, Kim Blanch and Dr. Brittany Hazzard
- Wealth creation led by Shelly Cecchett and Bernice Edwards
- Public policy led by Yvette Santiago and Anne Farley
- Education led in part by Dr. Sandi Hagans-Morris and Fatimah Conley Stone
- Criminal justice led by Renata Kowalczyk, Lynne Kielhorn, Tanya Whittle
- Youth advancement led by Jalyn Powell and Cierra Hall-Hipkins
- Performance measurers led in part by Dr. Kathy Denhardt
- Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) led by Taryn Guy, and Debbie Smith
These women combine their power, passion and skills with those of Alex Southerst, Tierra Fair, Dr. Gwen Angalet, and Dr. Vonna Drayton to boldly drive change. And there are still more. Jamee Boone leads Fusion Alliance. Donna Snyder White heads our minority small business initiative. Emily Kauffman leads Equity Counts Data Center.
That’s a lot of women powering change from the grassroots to the grasstops. Thank you all! It is my pleasure privilege and honor to witness your greatness as we shift our paradigm to embrace equity.
There is much more work to be done. My challenge to you all is to join or remain active in this fight with us and to find ways to celebrate the great women in your lives.