These notes are from the Community Sharing hosted by GRCB on August 4th, 2020. The notes are a combination of live note taking and pre written statements.
Community Sharing , Tuesday, August 4th 7:00PM, via Zoom
Nora: Welcome to everyone who made it at 7, we are waiting until 7:03 to get started.
Hello and thank you for being here to learn about what has been happening the last few months.
Please stay muted, video on or off.
Zoom logistics- we will be doing a Q&A, we will be taking q’s live but you can also submit your questions to Megan directly in the chat. Any questions that don’t get answered can be answered by firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to introduce myself and the other GRCB staff and board members.
Present: Nora ED, VQ Board President, Dee Board Member, Mayté Board Member, Kelly Board Member, Chris Board Member, Charlotte Staff, Megan Staff.
Mayté will center
VQ- board president- will share the processes, procedures, and suggestions of the board
Nora- known next steps in the process
Q&A- at the end
The investigation is still ongoing so there are still things we won’t be able to speak to tonight, but we will share all that we can and the board is open if anyone wants to reach out.
Thank you for your presence and willingness to engage in this dialogue
Thank you for seeking this out, given the discussion and the topic it’s not necessarily easy to do
GIven the discussion and details of what we are covering we will take a second to center, be aware of what is coming up for you in your mind, body, and heart. Be mindful of what works for you tonight. HOwever you showing up is perfectly fine. What you say or don’t say is perfectly fine. On or off video is perfectly fine. If there is ever a moment when you need to step away from the call and come back in please take care of yourself.
Veronica (VQ) Santana (Board President) pre-written statements
- I want to start by saying thank you to everyone who is here today. GRCB is nothing without its community, which is how the board came to the recommendations it did for GRCB around the situation of harm and concerns that were expressed on the alum page.
- We also want to thank everyone who reached out around having a community update and space for questions which is another necessary form of transparency, accountability, and community learning.
- I won’t go into exact details of who and what was posted on the page, but I will detail the chain of events that took place after the post and the why’s of our recommendations.
- I also want to say that everything that GRCB has done in terms of actions, has been based on recommendations from the board. We do not just make decisions that GRCB leadership had to follow. This means time for the board to have deep conversation, further conversation and processing time for GRCB leadership, and then a choice for GRCB leadership to accept or not accept them.
- That’s some context, now I want to get into how we came about making the recommendations we did, and the lingering questions and road ahead.
- To start from the beginning, when the person posted on the page about experiencing sexual harm from someone connected to the org, and also shared concerns for volunteer and participant safety, the board was immediately contacted by Nora.
- We decided the first thing to do was respond personally to the person posting to let them know we took what they were saying very seriously. We had a Board meeting scheduled for that week, and felt it was best to save this discussion for in person (IE Zoom). The pandemic isolation was underway.
- When we met, Nora first gave us all of the details that she had, not only of the Facebook post. She also answered questions on processes related to how anyone within GRCB would communicate they had been harassed, abused, suffered incidents of bias, and or other harm. We also asked programmatic details, For example, we asked about how people move in and out of our programming spaces, who is background checked, and who isn’t.
- Now, a little background is helpful here and it was a part of our discussion, GRCB’s Strategic Plan, created last year, has a focus on developing infrastructure, particularly Human Resources. Whether we call it human resources or something else, GRCB has known for some time it needs a process for those within our community to report anything that may be harmful to them or others occurring within the community, not only in actual programming, but by those in the community. But, at the time of this reported situation, nothing was really in place.
- To be completely transparent, GRCB spoke at the end of last year about this needing to be a priority, but it still was not acted upon quickly. This is likely because GRCB, the lean team that is, was trying to put on programming while going through an intense strategic planning process. But to be super transparent (and this is a concern of mine and has been), I think the lack of haste around this is based on this sense that we feel our community is full of so many wonderful and critical people, that nothing bad really happens, or if it does, of course staff would deal with it in an unbiased way.
- I wanted to mention that because it was a part of the Board’s discussion. I said to the board, and I say it now openly, that I wish I had been more assertive about us needing a process for concern or harm to be reported. I was afraid to push, due to my newness to the board, and my own fear of being seen as too critical of the organization.
- A large part of the board’s discussion was around GRCB not having a solid openly communicated process for folks to use if they feel harmed or concerned about how they have been treated at GRCB. GRCB also has not communicated that we take concerns seriously about others tied to our organization, whether it happens during programming or outside of it. GRCB has not set parameters around what is our responsibility to our community’s safety and wellbeing, not just within the legal expectations of a non-profit, what is our responsibility and care in what we value as a feminist aligned organization.
- So, the board was thinking deeply about
- The person who posted, how do we provide them the space to voice their experience and share their concerns around volunteer and participant safety
- How does this incident prove that the lack of process in GRCB, may have and could continue to lead to more folks not having a space to voice their experiences of harm, whether at GRCB events or with members who are within our community
- The hardest aspect of this, which was another big part of our discussion, is that GRCB is built upon passionate volunteers, participants and their families, and staff. Many who are longtime friends and who are involved in many endeavors together. What is so beautiful; about GRCB, is also what needs to critically engaged with if we truly do value equity, justice, and a feminism built on intersectional analysis.
- So I will go back to the Facebook post just to illustrate what our concerns were. I don’t want anyone to feel called out, but I want to name our concerns. There was and has been reactions to that Facebook post and the recommendations thereafter, that were quick to defend GRCB. A lot of these statements had statements of support for the person posting their experience of harm, but many were caveated with people stating that they had never experienced anything harmful at GRCB and their utmost trust in leadership to handle this. And concern over anything that may pose harm to the organization.
- Now, I care deeply about GRCB, it’s why I am on the board. But nothing I care about is safe from replicating, condoning or ignoring harm. I am not saying it definitively about this incident, but I am saying that it was troubling for us to see our community in some ways model the very behavior that would be pointed out as victim blaming and not victim centered for other groups. Again, all based on this love and trust for this organization, but love and trust can be a wall that shields from accountability, if accountability is viewed as punishment. It can become: If you have something bad to say about this organization, then we will say we support you, but also remind you how wonderful we are and therefore don’t harm it.
- That is foremost harmful to the person reporting their incident of sexual harassment and abuse, but also to anyone who views that or hears about this reaction. Is our community an open community? One we want to diversify, one where we want to amplify marginalized voices, or is it then just an in crowd?
- We cannot say we care about equity, justice, or diversity, if we don’t realize not everyone feels the same amount of comfort or trust within our current community. It is problematic to expect everyone within the GRCB community, whether in it now or in the future, to unequivocally trust in leadership based on personal connection.
- Which leads to another point: GRCB is a majority white organization, both in participants, volunteers, and in staff. We are an organization where all of the staff have personal and creative connections, and even the board for a long time had folks in close relationship with staff.
- Now, again, for many of us that’s a part of the beauty of GRCB. We are a community of close connections. And there’s a trust that folks wouldn’t act on preferential treatment. We are organization built on tight networks of friends, partners, creative projects.
- But, that means it is likely very difficult for anyone to speak openly or privately about any negative behavior or harm they may have gone through, since anyone you would speak with about someone may be friends with them or have a stake in something with them.
- We can be both/and here, honor the hard work of longstanding volunteers’ participants celebrate our closeness of friendships, while also acknowledging that same long history of friendship, can act as exclusion if we don’t peel back how one can join this community and not feel pressured to conform or to not make waves.
- So, because of all this, knowing that the accuser themselves had concerns about people potentially being harmed, and knowing that we didn’t have a process for folks to report harm, made us recommend hiring an independent investigator, for both the person who reported on Facebook and for any others who may felt unsure about reaching out to leadership. The current plan also includes creating a victim and trauma centered process for reporting harm, which will mean hiring outside support. We don’t want to do things the way a typical nonprofit would, which often can replicate oppression, but that means doing the work of creating something aligned with our values.
- Now, we also recommended, based on the incident and person described having a personal relationship with [the Program Director], that [the Program Director] should take a paid leave of absence.
- This paid leave of absence was again, a recommendation, that was accepted by leadership. By some, it was seen as a punishment. We empathize with the feelings of a woman being seemingly blamed for a man’s actions. But, [the Program Director] is one of the two main leaders of this organization.
- The person named as the abuser is their partner, it is common practice for someone within a leadership position to take space and time away, when they are so close to an incident being reported.
- And the board, it was and continues to be about how a leader uses their power responsibly. It is about knowing when one’s power within an organization, isn’t just about being present, but about providing space. A space for voices who may feel guilty voicing concerns, in this case about a person’s partner, because of not just a fear of retribution, but a fear of disappointing this community.
- That is what the recommendation was based on, it comes from people who care about [the Program Director], and ultimately care about the values of this organization, which mean creating that space.
- This process took some time for several reasons. The GRCB board is made up of mostly new people, like I said. Three of us had been on a year, and the other four had been on a couple months.
- Like I said before, GRCB did not have a process for this in place. So we had to speak
- about all of the above
- reflect on our values as an organization
- analyze power dynamics and equity issues
- process all of this with leadership and provide our recommendations
- find an independent investigator who aligned with our values
- I also want to name that the board is currently, a majority woman of color including Black women. All of this happened, as the pandemic quarantine began for many of us, which disproportionately hit black and brown communities, and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other incidents of violence against black people brought a great reckoning for white America.
- This isn’t meant as an excuse, but as context for how the board was trying to respond to this, create a process, all while responding to the pandemic ravaging our communities, and the conversations many of us lead around anti-Black racism in our organizations and networks. It was so important to us especially at that time, to center our analysis around the White Feminism that pervades so many non-profits dedicated to uplifting marginalized gender identities. What I described above, whether the lack of process for reporting harm or concerns and the response to criticism of the org being met with testimony of it and leaderships wonderfulness, causes even greater harm for those who are not white cis women within the organization.
- I am more a facilitator then a speech giver, so thank you for listening. I hope this offers some clarity, and I want to thank everyone who reached out around having this conversation. We did discuss having a workshop specifically on responding to victims of sexual harm, but a more public forum on this was still not decided. It was a necessary call to action from our community to have. Part of my fear in having a more public discourse, has been the sense that our recommendations would be seen or have been as punishing GRCB leadership. As not being community focused.
- I am a member of this community, and as a Puerto Rican woman, I feared being seen as punishing white women, whether the leadership or those within the org who strongly identify leadership as the soul of the organization. It’s been too often I have been the WOC and seen WOC that push for equity in organizations be seen as being mean, divisive, and other negative things.
- But, I trust, that everyone here has the same amount of empathy and sense of bigger picture, that we on the board hold. The GRCB community is not just those who are in it now, though that community is on we also respect and consider ourselves a part of, but it is also who will or could join, if we can strive to a community that is open to diversity and equity not just in words, but in how the space we create. Thank you.
Nora Allen-Wiles (Executive Director) pre-written statements
- I want to start by acknowledging and honoring that our Board of Directors is majority women of color who have dedicated significant time, energy and labor to this process of building up GRCB to be more responsible and accountable to our community. This work has been done in the midst of a pandemic, that is disproportionately affecting Black and Latinx folks, and while enduring the physical, emotional and psychological impacts of the continued racial injustice and racially motivated violence against Black people that has highlighted and elevated overt anti-Blackness in this country.
- Over the past 4 months, the support of the board has been unwavering as this organization has been faced with unprecedented challenges.
- As Executive Director, I am responsible to this community as a whole. I recognize the impact and harm that was caused by what transpired and that it was indicative of a gap in the organization’s infrastructure that needs to be taken very seriously.
- I want to recognize, and commit to, the work that needs to be done to address the ways that the systems of oppression this community works to disrupt, can be, and are present within the community itself and can silence the marginalized voices we work to amplify.
- Our intention was to widely open up an opportunity for folks to elevate concerns to educate us on any misconduct that was occurring without our knowledge, further gaps in our infrastructure, and the systems that may be preventing people from bringing up concerns to leadership.
- We truly see this as an opportunity to identify areas where we need to improve and want to be continuously educated and held accountable by members of the community.
- We felt it was important to engage a 3rd party investigator to receive concerns during this time so that community members would not be going to staff or board but be heard by someone unbiased and unconnected to the organization.
- We wanted to engage a firm who aligned with our values and understood our intentions as an organization through this process.
- Spruce Law was recommended by two of our board members and we felt the firm understood our intentions for the investigation and the subsequent audit of our policies, procedures and practices. This was not about establishing a baseline of legal obligation but about working to ensure safety and support for all of our volunteers and participants with emphasis on the importance of accountability and responsibility to our community.
- The investigator will be reporting back themes of concerns that she received to myself and the board so that we can actively work to address those areas.
- I do want to say that it may feel like it is all taking a long time. But to truly engage in a thoughtful, meaningful and thorough process, we need to continue to be patient.
- While the formal investigation period has ended, I want to be sure to emphasize that the door is not closed.
- This has allowed us to identify opportunities to open up more lines of communication and clarify the processes and procedures for elevating concerns within the organization.
- We are in the process of building specific procedures for elevating concerns and setting transparent systems of accountability, to address any problems or improper activity, and ensure prompt action that is trauma informed and rooted in restorative justice.
- Changes and updates will be communicated back out to the community and will be included as part of all volunteer orientations and training materials as well as welcome materials for families of youth participants and adult participants.
- As part of the continued reflection on the values of the organization, accountability, and the responsibility we hold to this community we are taking a focused look at all of our policies, procedures, practices, systems and structures to identify areas that could be strengthened or updated.
- When the investigation is concluded, we will continue to share more information as we are able.
- Additionally, to continue our commitment to community building, transparency and accountability, we see this as the first of many community gatherings and hope that the community will help educate the necessary themes and topics of future sharing, dialogues and training.
Wanted to reiterate It is also important for us to note that given the investigation is still on-going, there may be questions that will not be able to be answered at this time but we hope to be able to respond to any questions relevant to the information we are sharing tonight. If you do not feel like your question was answered, you would prefer to not ask your question in this format, or you have further questions later, please email email@example.com.
Open Question & Answer
Q: do we have an idea of what these reporting procedures are going to look like? Will there be a third party involved?
Nora: it would be a few levels of reporting options, like here are the people who you contact if you have concerns about ____. There will also be a third party firm who you can bring any concerns to, but especially concerns about leadership and the board or if you felt like your concerns were not addressed.
But we also want to strengthen what happens after we receive those concerns. We are looking to work with someone who specialized in HR, so if you know of anyone please connect us.
Q: I’m thinking about the young people in the organization and wondering where their voice is in these decisions or other decisions moving forward?
Nora: We want to create age appropriate systems to explain these processes to youth. We are also working on building youth leadership now, creating systems for them to give feedback to GRCB and to get feedback from other GRCB youth.
Q: Will this change the GRCB day to day?
VQ: I think it will change the questions we ask: how are we being really up front about our expectations? How do we say that you will be held accountable for harm you cause outside of GRCB spaces that that could lead to you no longer being asked back as a volunteer? This should be a space where you can come and share about direct harms and microaggressions, large or small. We want to open up in terms of recruitment of volunteers, volunteer training, and being very thoughtful and explicit. We can’t rest on our laurels, we need to keep asking and questioning.
Mayté: We will be formalizing policies and procedures, which is what the strategic plan is all about. Thinking about how we are trained and asking if we are explicit enough about the things we are talking about. What are the changes to the day to day? Looking at the policies and procedures and getting community feedback as we go, will lead to day to day changes.
Nora: Also naming and being explicit about the power structures and dynamics that can exist within our community. We need to engage our youth and adults in talking about toxic power dynamics and disrupting them.
Q: What kind of supports have or has been provided to the staff regarding wellbeing and safety?
Nora: if we have to deal with something like this again, we have learned so much from this process that we can use in the future.
VQ: I trust in Nora’s ability to communicate the boards decisions to the staff in an empathetic and supportive way that acknowledges what has to happen.
Mayté: we recognize that these heavy topics have an impact on everyone, from Nora I have heard that staff have been checking in with each other and supporting each other
Nora: It has helped us to see how we need to take care of ourselves and the org, to switch our focus from growing and building to pausing and questioning.
Q: Are we looking at other rock camp groups having dealt with something of this nature or is this issue not super addressed at GRCA?
Nora: The GRCA is a wonderful resource, but we are all at very different places, sizes, stages, etc. While the GRCA board is amazing, it seems that there are not HR guides. It was not the first place we looked for support.
VQ: once the investigation concludes we can reach out, to ask about processes about specific issues, but we need to get our facts together first. I want to see how we can reach out to them in the future once we know what we are researching.
Q: I am a former GRCB board member and I’m currently working with GRCA. If you feel that you want to get in on some of that GRCA goodness please be in touch.
I also have a question, who is on our board these days? I’m thrilled there is growth and more folks of color. But now being a community member it’s nice to get more insight about who the leadership is. I know a list of names is on the website, but I would like to know more or have access to more information.
Mayté: I want to echo that putting faces to the names, that sending an email to the board can feel like sending an email to the ether. I think there is an assumption that everyone knows who is on the newly appointed board, and that everyone knows the people who are on the board. I think we need to be intentional about that and
Nora: I want to echo that. We want to be much more transparent on our website about who is involved in this organization in every way. This is some of the work we are planning to do through the strategic plan, but will take responsibility that it hasn’t happened yet.
Mayté: If there are no more questions, should we close?
Nora: Yeah, I’ll just say please feel free to reach out to the board. Thank you all for being here.
VQ: trying to have more of these community spaces with a variety of tones and feelings is what I hope will happen down the road. I hope that people do feel a sense that they are grounded in what they want to do. I am thinking about: how do we continue to include GRCB volunteers and participants in providing feedback in creating GRCB processes and procedures.
Mayté: thank you all for showing up. I want to reiterate, even though the date has come and gone in terms of the investigation, please reach out to the board email. Much like I said at the beginning of our conversation today it’s not easy to speak truth and we appreciate that that has happened and that you have pushed this organization further. I think it’s also important to be mindful of how you are feeling after this call. Take a walk or a moment to care for yourself and notice. If anything comes up, comments, questions, feelings, please reach out to the board email.Now that you have many more faces to the names on the board, I hope that helps you to feel free to reach out.