Dear Cleveland Community,
I joined SVP Cleveland in September 2020, amid two pandemics. The COVID-19 crisis had brought our world and individual lives to a sudden standstill. At the same time, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, our country was grappling with a greater awareness of the deep and longstanding racial inequity and injustice that have plagued us since our country’s founding.
It was during this turbulent time that I became SVP Cleveland’s new executive director. I was drawn to SVP’s commitment to equity and its culture of giving, learning, and evolving. SVP Partners had already begun the deep, humbling, individual work of self-reflection and the collective work of defining how we give and engage with nonprofit leaders and organizations across Cleveland. In this I saw a unique opportunity—at a difficult and opportune moment—to lead an organization of individuals eager to participate in social change
It is now September 2021—the one-year mark of my tenure. One of my core commitments this past year was to listen to and learn from our Partners, board, staff, and the nonprofits we serve. What I have heard is a chorus of individuals committed to equity and a deep desire to turn commitment into action. I am eager for this work too and believe we have reached a crucial point in our journey.
Internally, we have taken many meaningful steps, and, this spring, we made the decision to partner with a leadership + equity coaching and consulting firm to guide our efforts further. I am thrilled to share that, this August, we kicked off a partnership with Robbin Hudson, Victor Ruiz, Jerry Pena, and the team from Gradient Think Tank to support our journey of learning and evolving. Gradient will bring their human-centered approach to help us define SVP’s values and our North Star as we move forward with staunch determination to translate our equity ideals into action.
As I think about this work and all that it entails—personally, professionally and civically and emotionally, mentally and physically, I frequently come back to Amanda Gorman’s stunning inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” and all the hopeful and heartbreaking truth she conveys through her spoken word. While every sentence moves and motivates me, the one that drives my continued commitment are her final words:
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
It is with this light, courage, and determination that we move forward.
We will update the broader community on this work by the end of 2021. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts and discussions along the way.
Take good care of yourselves and one another,
Updated September 2021