As the world reckons with the results of the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota, many organizational leaders continue to look for ways to support their employees and members through stressful times. One organizational leader who has excelled at this very thing is Shameka Jennings, the director of meeting and partners at a DC based association.
“After George Floyd’s murder, I knew I personally felt heavy,” Jennings said. “I’m the most senior Black staff (member) in our organization, so I wanted to have a way to check in with the rest of the staff because they don’t report to me.”
With this in mind, Jennings created a private Slack channel for the Black staffers in her organization to share their feelings, thoughts and form a sense of community in their office.
“It’s allowed us to be more of our true selves,” she explained. “In this space, it is something where we can really kind of let our hair down and just be real with each other and talk. It’s really made a difference.”
It has made such a difference that it became the most active Slack channel, public or private, that her association hosts.
As purpose-driven organizations, associations have the knowledge and resources to focus on the value and community building needed to further diversity and inclusion efforts. By proposing your organization’s own Slack channel, mentorship program or even just offering an ear to listen, you too can support your members and employees.
“I think an organization can definitely propose it, but I do think they need someone that is truly invested to lead it and to be sure that it took off,” Jennings said. “If it’s something that organizations want to do, I highly recommend and definitely encourage it. I definitely think other organizations can learn from this if they have someone that is also invested.”
To create a truly equitable workplace, you have to get started somewhere, and by finding a champion to take on community building and support, your organization can become a place that is welcoming and comfortable for all people.
Keep in mind that while necessary conversations to have, talk around racial tension, injustice and prejudice are rightfully emotional and tense. The feelings and words of those who are discriminated upon are valid, and should not be censored. In fact, Jennings’ Slack channel is confidential.
“My boss is aware that it exists; he’s not aware of the contents of it,” Jennings said. “If an organization does decide to move forward with it, they can’t helicopter or police it.”
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Ashley Neal joined the Sidecar team as Community Coordinator in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down life as we knew it. Having to adapt, overcome and predict the changes needed to survive in the new normal, Ashley now has the skills needed to juggle any obstacle thrown her way. A soon-to-be graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in the field of Strategic Communications, Ashley spends her days balancing her work and education with her love of dogs. Taking her three dogs — Scooby, Pipsqueak and Moose — to restaurants, hiking trails, vacations and even participating in dog shows and sports is the highlight of her weekends.