Those who call Appalachia and the Southeast “home” reflect a vast diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status and religious belief. As we strive to preserve a healthy environment and transition to a more just economy for our region, Appalachian Voices is equally committed to upholding the rights of all of our region’s people.
We aspire to be an ally to underrepresented communities that have been systematically disenfranchised, disinvested in, and deprived of the resources they need to thrive. But we accept that at times we have fallen short and failed to use our power to challenge the systems of this oppression and that, as a predominantly White organization, we have unconscious biases that must be examined.
Rather than closing our eyes to the wounds inflicted by a history of colonization, forced migration, slavery, segregation and exploitation, we seek to more fully understand the myriad ways systemic racism and the racialized inequality it produces shape our society today. From the exhaustion of poverty and exposure to pollution to the local effects of climate change and all of the associated health risks, the burdens our society disproportionately places on low-wealth communities and communities of color are born of ingrained prejudice.
These burdens are not predetermined outcomes; they are the products of policy choices and inaction. They are maintained by the entrenched power and prevailing interests of institutions that are not accountable to the groups they purport to represent. Appalachian Voices is committed to confronting these pervasive injustices internally, by taking proactive measures to become a more inclusive organization, and externally, by becoming a stronger partner to people harmed by them.
We intend to honor our duty to past, present and future generations and devote our efforts to achieving equity as both a moral and strategic imperative. We acknowledge that environmental justice and racial justice are inextricable, and that any legitimate vision of climate justice is contingent on realizing them both. Therefore, we are called to stand firmly in opposition to white supremacy, racism and all forms of discrimination, whether overt or concealed, and to support policies that strike at the roots of unjust systems that have failed so many for so long.
Our staff and board of directors are determined to advance a mission and foster an organizational culture that inwardly and outwardly reflect the values of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We know that our shared commitment to this work requires deep, ongoing personal reflection to understand how we as individuals are implicated in, and at times benefit from or perpetuate, an unjust society and how, through purposeful learning, we can become more effective agents of change.
Appalachian Voices supports our staff and pursues this organizational growth most directly through our DEI Team, which consists of staff representing every Appalachian Voices program and department. We are grateful to be on this path, learning from one another and from the communities we serve with empathy, humility and the urgency this moment requires of us. We welcome feedback from marginalized groups on how we can most effectively do this work and be accountable to the communities with whom we seek to hold solidarity.
Appalachian Voices is taking several actions to:
Foster an inclusive organizational culture: We necessarily began by considering the culture of our organization and individual regional offices with a willingness to make changes to become more open and inclusive. We create time and space for conversations among staff and board members about race, identity and inequality, and we seek out and share resources and encourage staff and board members to participate in training.
Become a more diverse organization that is reflective of the region we serve: We are improving our hiring and onboarding practices, including how we develop job descriptions and where we promote open positions at Appalachian Voices, to cultivate a more diverse and representative staff as well as interns and volunteers. We are also continuing to build upon our efforts in recent years to increase the diversity of race, gender, and lived experiences of our board of directors.
Apply a racial justice and equity lens to programmatic work-planning and evaluate our goals and strategies in those terms: Our commitment to racial justice and equity will be central to our strategic planning and in determining the work we prioritize to advance our mission. Moving forward, Appalachian Voices will work even harder to center the expertise and perspectives of those most impacted by the problems we seek to address in our planning, campaigns and communications, and in collaborative efforts with close partners and allies.
Provide staff with opportunities for personal and professional growth: We are developing support systems for staff who may encounter racism or other forms of oppression or discrimination in the course of their work. Appalachian Voices places the utmost value on the well-being of our staff, board, interns and volunteers, and we are committed to honoring their personal growth and investing in their professional development, including through a safe and supportive grievance process.
Engage in racial justice movements to address the inequities that hurt Appalachian communities and hold our region back: We will dedicate staff time to supporting movements and organizations fighting for racial justice and equity, especially those that are most active in the communities where we work, while also allowing the flexibility necessary for our staff to personally engage with and support these movements and organizations.
Support local businesses owned by women and people of color: Whenever possible, Appalachian Voices will seek out and support businesses that are rooted in the communities where we work and are owned by women and/or by people of color.
This statement was drafted by members of Appalachian Voices’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team in 2020 and presented to the full staff and board of directors for feedback. It was ratified by the Appalachian Voices Board of Directors in December 2020.