The day after Black History Month is over, several organizations in Cayuga County will continue the work of pursuing equity in the community with a new event.
The 21-Day Equity Challenge will give participants a free daily electronic package of videos, podcasts, texts and more throughout the month of March. With topics ranging from privilege to incarceration, the material is meant to improve people's understanding of the myriad impacts of inequity and racism. People can sign up at igfn.us/f/35in/n or https://app.mobilecause.com/e/37BHLA?vid=fg9fr.
The challenge was created in 2014 by diversity educators Dr. Eddie Moore Jr. and Debbie Irving, and since then it has been developed into a program that any community can employ. In Auburn, it was United Way of Cayuga County Executive Director Karen Macier who suggested the program to several partners after learning about it through her work at the agency.
"We're trying as an organization to take a look at our systems and the work we're doing with race, equity and inclusion," she said. "To be a better, stronger organization, to be a leader and a listener."
That work ramped up last year, Macier said, in light of the protests against police brutality in Auburn, Rochester and more cities nationwide after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
Those who would partner with the United Way include CAP Cayuga/Seneca, the Cayuga Community Health Network, the Harriet Tubman Center for Justice & Peace, the Schweinfurth Art Center, East Hill Medical Center and Seymour Library. Together, they'll tweak the challenge in ways that more closely reflect this community, Macier said, such as making people aware of local resources.
The organizations also decided to make the local challenge take place on weekdays only, Macier continued, so it will last about the whole month of March while giving people breaks. She stressed that there are no tests or other forms of accountability for the challenge, so people can sign up without worrying what will happen if they miss a day.
But the United Way and its partners are planning some sort of follow-up to this year's program, and to continue it in subsequent years. Though the COVID-19 pandemic will make events like public forums difficult, Macier believes it's important that people absorb and share what they learned about inequity and racism in the Cayuga County community.
"We don't want people to just go through this and be done," she said. "Prepare to be a little bit uncomfortable and to learn some more. We have to have a willingness to change."