AKRON, Ohio — Black History Month is a time to reflect on the contributions Black people have made to society. But it's also a time to talk about the challenges and disparities they still face and are working to overcome.
Community Legal Aid is shining a spotlight on that mission by allowing their own staff members to share their stories with their Amplifying Black Voices initiative.
“It's more challenging to focus inward because you may hear some things that aren't comfortable,” said Community Legal Aid legal graduate Kim Adams.
This year, CLA is having its Black staff, board members and volunteers tell their stories as part of the initiative.
Executive Director Steven McGarrity said the decision came after their years and years of racial justice work.
“We really recognized that we needed to take a look at ourselves and make sure that we were living up to the ideals that we were asking other organizations and businesses and governments and the community to do,” said McGarrity.
Over the last few weeks, videos have been posted to the CLA YouTube page. Each person’s perspective is different from the next.
Adams said the initiative makes her and her fellow black colleagues feel like their contributions, suggestions, and viewpoints are valued even though the conversations are tough to have.
“When you're willing to hear something that may be challenging for your organization to hear from the perspective of those employees, that's what makes it important. And that's also what makes it real,” said Adams.
That in turn allows them to help the people they serve better.
“We remember that we are only part of a multi-layered community. And what we're trying to do is we are trying to empower our community through what we do every day,” said Adams.
The organization is also shedding light on issues that plague Black communities like generational poverty, health disparities and racism with its weekly blog series, Big Ideas.
McGarrity hopes that all of these efforts combined lead to more understanding beyond just this month.
“Lots of things make us uncomfortable. We need to confront those so we can make sure those things never happen again. And to the extent they continue to happen, we need to stop them,” said McGarrity.
Community Legal Aid’s Amplifying Black Voices and Big Ideas Black History Month initiatives will continue to be updated through the rest of February.
Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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