In this new Pittsburgh, we hear a lot about the importance of diversity. Diversity is important because it breeds innovation and opens new markets. Less frequently, but still spoken about is inclusion. Inclusion is important because without inclusion, diversity is a passive action that does not engage people in the decision-making process. And then there is equity. Equity is ensuring that whatever economic gains there are, people on all levels are benefitting. Equity is so important that it even has it's own manifesto, click here to read it. 

Recently, a delegation from Pittsburgh attended PolicyLink's Equity 2015 Summit.  This summit brought together a cross section of community leaders, policy wonks, government officials and researchers from across the country who have been working on building equity in their own communities. It was an amazing chance to see what is working in other places. I am writing a series of blogs to highlight recurring themes I observed and share the best practice strategies I learned. These blogs are not expert pieces, but rather reflections of my own experience during a three day national conference. The PolicyLink website contains a wealth of more information for further research

This first blog post will focus on people. I am starting with the people part of the equation because without people, we do not have community. Often we devalue and leave out individuals and groups based on historical bias, poor data collection, greed and straight up racism. To address that, we must be intentional in calling out those who have lived on the margins and centralizing their lived experiences as it relates to economic gain. 

  1. The New America. The United States is undergoing the largest demographic shift of its history. By the year 2043, we will be a "majority minority" country. This means we will be a population largely made up of people who are Black, Latino and Asian (note: Asia the continent, not one culture). Addressing structural racism is imperative to ensuring that all Americans are able to live well. Pittsburgh in particular must not only address equity, but must catch up with the rest of the country with regards to population demographics. It remains one of the whitest metropolitan areas in the country, which is problematic for population growth. It impacts the tax base and ability of the region to remain competitive in an increasingly global world. Learn more about America's demographic shift by clicking here. 
  2. Youth of Color. As American population demographics change, our youth are largely Black, Latino and Asian. This is America's future workforce. To ensure a productive and competitive American workforce in the future, we must invest in their education and well-being now. 
  3. Women. Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends - women are the gatekeepers of society. The mental, physical and emotional health of women impacts families, their ability to parent and general contribution to society. Educating women, ensuring access to quality jobs, affordable housing, comprehensive healthcare and quality childcare provides a stable foundation for future generations. 
  4. Black Women. Faced with some of the largest health and economic disparities in our society, Black women hold an incredible amount of power and grace. They are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs and are the most active, consistent and progressive segment of the Rising American Electorate or New American Majority. If Pittsburgh is going to be an economically successful region, then it must be a place where Black women and their families are able to thrive.
  5. #LGBTQ4Equity. These are not just letters; they are people. When we think about access, affordability and equity - gender, identity and sexual orientation cannot be taken out of the equation. Policies that are meant to be inclusive and do not consider how they impact these aspects of people identities are not inclusive. This goes beyond employment policies and extends to affordable housing, access to healthcare, quality jobs, freedom from violence and other social support systems. 
  6. Native & Indigenous Communities. Inequity, as it exists in the United States, began with the destruction of the Native and indigenous communities that existed here prior to European invasion. The disparities are deadly. Yet, we are not often engaged in a conversation around equitable development as it relates to Native and Indigenous people. One of the speakers on a plenary was Nick Tilsen, the founding Executive Director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation and member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. He spoke of the importance of focusing on youth and supporting #BlackLivesMatter as it is dismantling structural oppression. Tilsen was incredibly moving. And he reminds us of how large the equity pie has to be. To learn about the work being done by the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation click here.

My subsequent blog posts will focus on strategies and movements that are pushing the equity agenda nationwide. You can also find additional blogs about the Equity Summit by clicking here.