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Kent County Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Pulse Resources and Opportunities- June 2021

New Name. New Look.

The REI ( Race, Equity and Inclusion) Pulse is changing its name to DEI ( Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) Pulse to build on our efforts across Kent County. The DEI Pulse newsletter will now be administered through the newly established Kent County Inclusion Office. This will be one of many ways that Kent County seeks to engage and inform community on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion matters and to provide timely information and updates that align with Kent County’s Strategic Plan priorities for Inclusive Participation and Effective Communication.
Kent County Inclusive Participation: We will provide innovative and inclusive ways to engage residents and involve them in County government.

A Message From Teresa Branson, Kent County's First Chief Inclusion Officer

Hello Kent County Colleagues and Community Residents. I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and provide a reintroduction to many of you within our organization and community. On May 24, 2021, I began a new journey as Kent County’s first Chief Inclusion Officer. The Office of Inclusion is located within the Kent County Administrator’s Office and reports to our Kent County Administrator/County Controller, Wayman Britt. For those that don’t know me, my name is Teresa Branson and this month marks my 24th year working for Kent County and serving our community. My previous Kent County positions have been with the Kent County Health Department where I recently served as the Deputy Administrative Health Officer. Much of my career has been dedicated to advancing health equity, addressing root causes of disparities, racism, and focusing on diversity and inclusion. This is at the core of much of my work experience and seeking to understand the lived experiences of individuals and families that call Kent County home.
Here’s a little background on my journey and some of the experiences that have provided a good foundation for me personally and professionally. First, I’m the loving and dedicated Mom to my two beautiful children (young adults) Dennis and Shayna Branson, who have brought me great joy and have taught me first-hand what it means to be a mother. When I’m not working, I love to learn about my family history, stories of my ancestors, the struggles they faced with racism and discrimination and overcoming obstacles. It is through their journey, strength and resilience that allows me to be where I am today.
I have led the health department’s health equity initiatives, co-facilitated community Health Equity & Social Justice Dialogue Workshops, and delivered Equity Dialogue Workshops for County Departments and employees. I’m one of several certified Kent County trainers that deliver Cultural Intelligence trainings for County employees and was recently certified to deliver Implicit Bias trainings for staff through the Cultural Intelligence Center. I’ve had a great opportunity to work beside many diverse staff from County Departments as a long-standing member of the Kent County Cultural Insight Council and served on the Kent County Executive Committee to help develop the previous Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan.
Early in my career, I served as the Coordinator of the Kent County Task Force on Health Care for People of Color (a Kent County Board of Commissioner sponsored initiative to address access to care, health disparities, and racism in health care) and coordinated the Kent County Infant Health Initiative to address disparities in African American Infant Mortality. I can tell you that it’s not about the positions but about the people. Every person I have met is important and meaningful to me. Every interaction and conversation has taught me that the wisdom is in the community. I’m excited about serving in this new role and helping to carry out Kent County’s core value of Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and working on goals and strategies to support Inclusive Participation.
There’s always much to celebrate in our community but I wanted to take a moment to recognize and acknowledge June as Pride Month and Juneteenth.
Pride Month is a time to celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and asexual people, plus all other sexual orientations and genders. The month is celebrated in June in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, which kicked off the first major demonstrations for gay rights in America.
Juneteenth - Let us pause to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S., while also celebrating the dignity, freedom and contributions made by Black Americans. This is a holiday that originated in Galveston, Texas, but is now celebrated annually on June 19 throughout the United States. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865, announcement proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas.
I feel incredibly blessed to have served our community in many capacities. I’m thankful for many of the partnerships and relationships that have been made and that we will continue to build upon. I look forward to serving as your Inclusion Officer for Kent County. My door is open, my heart is ready for this work and my ears are eager to hear your voice and community voices.
Take Care and Be Well,
Teresa L. Branson,

Chief Inclusion Officer

Kent County – Administrator’s Office

Kent County DEI Statement

Click link to view: Kent County Strategic Plan 2019-2023

Kent County Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Goals:

  1. Provide our residents with equitable access to efficient, effective and culturally responsive services
  2. Intentionally incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in our service delivery
  3. Recruit and retain a qualified, diverse workforce that reflects our continually changing community

June is Pride Month! We recognize the historic importance of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement and the contributions leaders of this movement have made in their ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice.

Acronyms Explained

The language used to talk about LGBTIQ people is constantly evolving. New terms appear. Terms that were forgotten or unused, even terms that at some point were deemed derogatory, have been reclaimed and have entered into common parlance today. In a move towards inclusivity, the older, shorter, acronym - LGBT - has been expanded.

What follows is an explanation of that acronym and the meaning of terms it refers to. It’s worth noting that these definitions are not set in stone. Definitions of terms, like language itself, are constantly evolving. Moreover, they mean different things to different people. After all, we are talking about identity, sexuality and relationships, so there are as many definitions as there are people.

The (not-so) basics:

  • LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.
  • Lesbian – This term refers to a woman who is sexually and/or emotionally attracted to other women
  • Gay – This term refers to a man who is sexually and/or emotionally attracted to other men
  • Bisexual – This term refers to someone who is sexually and/or emotionally attracted to more than one gender. This used to exclusively mean attraction to men and women. More recently the term “bisexual” is used to refer to someone who is attracted to two or more genders out of the many gender identities. Gender identity is the internal perception of one’s gender and how a person labels themselves, based on how they align or do not align with what they understand gender to be. There are many gender identities, such as man, woman, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, or transgender.
  • Transgender – This term is used to describe someone whose gender identity or expression does not conform to what is expected based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender expression is the behavior, mannerisms, interests, and appearance a person uses to express their gender in a particular cultural context. The term transgender encompasses many different gender identities (more on this later in this posting), and transgender people have different sexual orientations, some may identify as straight, while others may identify as LGB.

Now, some expansion.

  • LGBTQIA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally
  • Queer – Queer is often used as an umbrella term referring to anyone who is not straight and not cisgender. Cisgender people are people whose gender identity and expression matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Historically the term queer was used as a slur against LGBTQIA people, but in recent years it has been reclaimed by LGBTIQ communities. However, some LGBTIQA people still find the term offensive. Queer is also often used as a broad rejection of labels. In this context, this could be a rejection of any type of label, but most often refers to a rejection of labels for gender and sexual orientation.
  • Questioning – This term refers to someone who is not sure how they identify. Someone can be questioning their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity.
  • Intersex – This term refers to people who naturally have biological traits which do not match what is typically identified as male or female. There are many different intersex variations. Some intersex people have XXY chromosomes, some have ambiguous genitalia or internal sex organs. Some intersex people have internal sex organs or hormones released during puberty which don’t match their genitalia. Being intersex is a naturally occurring variation in humans; it is not pathological. Being intersex is not linked to sexual orientation or gender identity; intersex people can have different sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions.
  • Asexual – Often referred to as “Ace”, this is an umbrella term used for individuals who do not experience, or experience a low level, of sexual desire. This identity can include those who are interested in having romantic relationships, and those who are not. People of different sexual orientations and gender identities can be asexual.
  • Ally – People who identify as cisgender and straight, and believe in social and legal equality for LGBTIQ+ people are allies. In many contexts, the “A” in LGBTQIA will only refer to Asexual people. The “A” is more likely to be short for both Ally and Asexual when LGBTQIA is being used to talk about a broader community that believes in the human rights of LGBTIQ people.

Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival 2021

June 11 11AM- June 12, 2021 11 PM

OLD NATIONAL BANK presents the 5th year of the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival - Michigan's Premier Asian-Pacific Event.

JUNETEENTH: CELEBRATING FREEDOM

Juneteenth is the observance of the ending of slavery in the United States. The holiday links back to June 19, 1865, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It was at that point Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and the slaves were freed.

In this webinar, presented in partnership with Warner Norcross + Judd LLP, we’ll hear from Dr. Sandra Upton, Vice President of Global Diversity Practice at Cultural Intelligence Center, and Paul Doyle, Founder & CEO of Inclusive Performance Strategies. Attendees will learn more about the history and significance of Juneteenth and why it’s important to celebrate within your organization.

Behind on your rent or utilities? The COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program can help.

Apply today!

In Case You Missed It- AAPI Heritage Month Panel Discussion

On May 8, 2021, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH), the National Park Service (NPS), and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) hosted a virtual panel discussion highlighting current federal efforts addressing racism and health inequities, including the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and the Presidential Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. OMH, NPS and WHIAPPI facilitated a rich discussion, featuring contemporary Asian Americans who are leading grass-roots efforts to protect and empower diverse AAPI communities nationwide.

In case you missed it, you can rewatch the entire panel discussion and learn more about each of the panelists below.

Webinar Forum:

Hesitancy, Equity, and Transparency: In Conversation with Pastor and Lawmaker James D. Gailliard on the COVID-19 Vaccine Roll Out

Thursday, June, 17, 2021 3:00PM-4PM

Racial and ethnic minorities, elderly individuals, those in underserved urban and rural areas, and members of other vulnerable groups are the most in need of the COVID-19 vaccine but face the greatest challenges to getting it. These individuals may lack resources to or be hesitant, confused, and/or skeptical of information about vaccine availability, safety, and efficacy. How can governments, the medical community, and community- and faith-based organizations reach them?

Trust and trustworthiness are a significant part of achieving equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. While policymakers, health care providers, pharmacies, and community-based organizations are working hard to build trust, there are challenges to doing so. Programs and policies that do not address population-specific needs and backgrounds, do not leverage trusted community resources, and do not share timely data transparently are common roadblocks.

In this Web Forum, speakers will address:
  • Issues related to building trust and trustworthiness between communities and those bringing vaccinations to the communities;
  • Successful strategies for reaching vaccine-hesitant communities;
  • How data can be used to ensure an equitable vaccine response;
  • How vaccine distribution strategies have evolved as supply increases; and

• What we have learned about how to build stronger and lasting relationships between communities and public health in preparation for the next pandemic or natural disaster.

This one-hour discussion is the third in the Web Forum series Equity in COVID-19: Bridging the Gap Between Public Health and Policy, brought to you by the Public Health Institute and IMPAQ, an affiliate of the American Institutes for Research. The series explores “in-the-news" topics, such as mental health, housing and health outcomes, and environmental health and climate change, and provides actionable insights to address equity issues by translating research into policy and practice.

COVID-19 Vaccine: #SleevesUp Campaign

Click video to view Dr. Joneigh Khaldun message to you.

In The News

We are blessed to have Sangeeta Ghosh work for Kent County. She is an invaluable member of our team and we are pleased Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and others are recognizing Sangeeta for her many accomplishments. Congratulations to Sangeeta for being highlighted on the Downtown Grand Rapid Inc. Facebook Page and thank you for all of your work for our community!

Born in Chennai, India, Sangeeta Ghosh has served as Assistant Corporate Counsel to Kent County, Michigan, which is based in Downtown Grand Rapids, since 2003. Ghosh immigrated to the United States in 1994 to join her husband. Despite her previous work as in-house counsel for a prominent financial institution in Mumbai, she navigated many hurdles to regain her professional status and obtain the license to practice law in Michigan. Because she initially accompanied her spouse as a dependent on H4 visa status, she could not receive employment until years later when she was granted a green card. She now holds a law degree from the University of Pune, a master’s degree in law from the University of Mumbai and Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School. Ghosh also serves as Co-President of West Michigan Asian American Association Inc, a trustee on the Board of the Grand Rapids Bar Association and the pro bono roll of civil mediators of the Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan. She is also helped incorporate the Western Michigan Bengali Cultural Association, an organization that fosters South Asian culture, art and heritage of India. #APAHM
Created By
Dawn Davies
Appreciate

Credits:

Kent County Office of Inclusion https://outrightinternational.org/content/acronyms-explained