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Expanding Access Quarterly Office of Access, Inclusion, and Compliance, Division of Extension

Summer 2020

What does systemic change look like?

by Dominic J. Ledesma

During the Talking & Reflection Circle we hosted in early June, a colleague posed the rhetorical question. With regard to issues of institutional racism, what does systemic change look like? This is a big question, one that gives us a lot to think about. So, if the movement following George Floyd’s death has prompted Extension to seek systemic change, and I argue that it has, then action on all levels of our organization is needed. This is why we will release a Call to Action this month that reinforces Extension’s strategic commitment to inclusivity and anti-racism work. As details about the initiatives are released, here are a few key factors we need to keep Extension on the path toward collective action and positive, sustainable change.

Strategy and coordination

Strategy and coordination are necessary for sustaining a commitment to change on any level. In order for Extension’s systemic response to intentionally focus on broader change, any and all efforts taken must be designed and implemented in a strategic and coordinated manner. This is why multiple initiatives are necessary for addressing multiple opportunities. In a large, dynamic, and decentralized organization, no single person or office can single-handedly influence all change that needs to occur. In Extension, we are seeing how leadership is centering issues of race and racism into our respective roles, with greater attention to identity-based forms of privilege and power. Statements drafted by leadership that denounce systemic racism, new and more self-directed resources and learning opportunities for colleagues in Institutes and Areas, integrating a more holistic equity focus in developing Program Plans of Work, the creation of committees with an equity focus in different Institutes, program areas, and operations are a few examples of what is already happening. These efforts will complement the initiatives outlined in the Dean’s Call to Action that will be shared and discussed in the next few weeks. All of these actions and efforts are grounded in, among other things, confronting the uncomfortable truths about how we can, should, and will demonstrate our commitment to improving our organization on multiple fronts.

Opportunities to better educate ourselves

The current movement has created an opportunity for more people to be a part of dialogues and action that address systemic racism. If nothing else, it has prompted more people to consider how their identities and experiences have perpetuated racism in a variety of ways. The current movement has provided our organization with a “gut check,” offering new opportunities to [re]examine our own values, culture, and relevance within the 21st century. The opportunity I see stemming from this involves greater investment of our resources, time, and energy toward educating ourselves. The purpose: to raise our critical awareness of issues that are inherently connected to a person’s (and an institution’s) own racialized identity.

Engaging in the “politics of acknowledgement”

The politics of acknowledgement require us to consider multiple points where our organizational presence and work has not centered the voices of diverse communities. The politics of acknowledgement is both a practice and a principle. It is a non-political act that consciously draws attention to our own positionality as professionals acting on behalf of our Division. This includes the intentional acknowledgement of who we are serving well, as well as acknowledging specific populations within the state that we could be serving better.

The politics of acknowledgement...includes the intentional acknowledgement of who we are serving well as well as acknowledging specific populations within the state that we could be serving better.

Collective engagement and accountability

Multiple initiatives outlined in the Dean’s Call to Action include opportunities for colleagues to be involved with initiatives. Involving colleagues to assist with shaping goals, establishing accountability measures, and contributing to the overall process will help produce initiatives that are positioned to be impactful and sustainable. With the support of colleagues, initiatives will be driven by our present needs and aided by an appropriate structure, whether that is a work group, steering committee, or otherwise.

The set of initiatives framed within our Call to Action represent one of many organizational responses. It is not intended to be a panacea for addressing all issues overnight nor is it intended to supplant current efforts already taking place at the Institute and Operations levels. It is another set of steps we will take forward, together. So, what does systemic change look like? Systemic change is as a systemic response does.

Programming highlight: Serving Native communities in Wisconsin

We asked Joy Schelble to tell us more about the Bad River Food Sovereignty program and the relationships she is building with tribal communities.

Please provide a brief description of your role and the program.

I am the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) educator serving the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe/Anishinaabe). My role is to further the goals of the tribe to restore vitality of health and culture to the youth and families of Bad River. I partner with the Bad River Food Sovereignty program (BRFS) to help build and maintain a food production system consisting of high tunnel greenhouses, orchards, and in-ground gardens. Through BRFS we provide education to the community about healthy foods grown and raised in Bad River as well as traditional plant foods and medicines that can be harvested on reservation and on ceded land. We work to further food security and wellness for all in the community. I also work with tribal partners to provide culture and Ojibwe language experiences for native youth wherever the children are, including the public school.

Photos from the Bad River Food Sovereignty Program. Courtesy of Joy Schelble.

What insights or perspectives would you share on the importance of building strong relationships within the local community?

As a non-native woman it has been important for me to build meaningful relationships. Throughout post-colonization history, there have been many well-intentioned white educators and outsiders who have visited the Bad River community, and many of these experiences have not been positive for the people of Bad River. It is not enough to have a relationship based on professional partnerships and services alone. I am a part of a diverse community and my child is growing up with an understanding of the land where he walks and the culture of the people that were here well before us. I am a part of this place and its story, the good and the bad.

It is not enough to have a relationship based on professional partnerships and services alone.

I am in ongoing dialogue with tribal members about biases, ignorance, and misinformation I have received in my lifetime. It is humbling, but it is the required work. I have mourned and I have felt embarrassed. It is a part of the journey of a responsible educator. It can be uncomfortable but it is necessary and I believe we are capable. I have learned to listen, to show up, and to change my plans. I understand my role as a partner and educator and follow the lead of the community I serve and listen to the leaders that guide the work.

In the time you have worked for Extension, what would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

I have worked for Extension for 19 years, first as a SNAP educator, then as the coordinator of the SNAP program for Iron County and also served as the Horticulture Educator for Iron County. I have been the FRTEP educator for five years, but my relationships in Bad River began in my other roles. I am proud of a lot of the work I have done including a mobile farmers market program that created access to local food in remote parts of our counties as well as for two tribal communities. This was a partnership with Tribal Commodities Program, Elderly Services and Ashland County Aging Unit and WIC. We came up with creative ways to support access to fresh local food including coupons to purchase the food, locating the markets at places where there was a WIC clinic or elder dining site, and providing fun food demos, recipes, and nutrition education.

In Bad River I am proud of the partnership with the Bad River Food Sovereignty program and the positive energy surrounding the work of growing and harvesting food and medicine and engaging Bad River kids in activities that reconnect them with their land and further their health and vitality. The educational events are nourishing to the soul, the work is many hands, and the food is delicious, nutritious and shared across the community.

Similarly, what would you consider to be your greatest challenge?

My greatest challenge is that sometimes systems do not grow as quickly as people. I have addressed many inequities and misunderstandings in our public schools regarding the Ojibwe children in our community. Many people want to do better yet the system continues to perpetuate racism and all of the problems that come with it. Some of the issues are the same ones people have dealt with for generations. There are plenty of insights and ideas as to how we move forward in a better way; indigenous people have been navigating and calling out the oppression in these systems since they were formed. Not everyone listens and not everyone hears what is being said. As someone who has been able to develop my communication skills, I am a good person to work with both the Bad River community and the public schools to have these conversations and make the necessary changes so our kids have what they need to flourish as adults in the world.

What do you enjoy most about your work and why?

I enjoy the variety of tasks, no day is the same. I enjoy the laughter. When you work with people and plants in the gardens, the forest, and the kitchen, there is much to be joyous about and many good stories and experiences are shared. I enjoy the collaborations and partnerships that make a community diverse, resilient, and whole. I see positive, thoughtful, and responsible change happening all of the time and it is beautiful. Thank you for your interest in my story.

employee spotlight

Employee Spotlight: Janeth Orozco

Job title: FoodWIse Nutrition Educator

Where do you live? Sheboygan, WI

Where did you grow up? Matehuala, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

How many years have you been in Extension? Four (4) years

Tell us a little about your role in Extension: As a Nutrition Educator I partner with different agencies to help people with limited incomes learn how to make healthy food choices. Personally, I enjoy working with Pre-K and Kindergarten kids.

What motivates you in your position? I enjoy helping people, and it is nice to teach them something that is going to help them have a better life.

Tell us about being a member of the Latino Employee Resource Group (LERG). I have been a LERG member for three and a half years. I am currently serving as the secretary. My favorite aspect of LERG is the opportunity to get to know other Latinx employees better.

One unique or surprising fact about you that you’d like to share with us: I love dancing and I used to take dance lessons including flamenco and modern dance.

Share your best tip for adapting to working from home during COVID-19: Writing down a to-do list every day to keep me on track and focused.

The emergence of "BIPOC": What it means and how it is used

by Ariana Thao

Language, through its usage and power, has shaped many narratives and discussions throughout history. In terms of a U.S. context, the term “BIPOC” has emerged in recent years by social activists working to promote the visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement. Through a complex history of language labeling, the term BIPOC stands for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.”

BIPOC stems from an effort to reclaim labels that have been previously used to oppress persons from racially minoritized groups. In its origins, “colored people” represented a label that was used by white populations in power to discriminate and alienate those who were not white (Malesky, 2014). This term was problematic because it labeled persons as objects based on the color of their skin.

As an effort to reclaim identities that was driven by the narratives of community members during the Civil Rights Movement, the use of “colored people” as a label was disrupted and an alternative emerged. The term that emerged was one that many are familiar with today, “people of color.” The use of “people of color” was aimed at “humanizing” communities of color and allowed for them to take back and remake the term into something that they had chosen themselves.

BIPOC centers ‘Black’ and ‘Indigenous’ to give their names visibility.

Stemming from The BIPOC Project, the usage of this term allows for members of these communities to reclaim their identities and distance themselves from language that oppresses Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. BIPOC pushes terms of identification even further. Efforts to promote the use of BIPOC aim to problematize the current use of “people of color.” Arguments draw attention to the way "people of color", as a term, erases the experiences of Black and Indigenous communities, painting all communities of color experiences’ as one. The BIPOC project acknowledges that communities of color experience a lot of the same discriminatory practices for not being white. BIPOC centers ‘Black’ and ‘Indigenous’ to give their names visibility. According to the Sunrise Movement, “By specifically naming Black and Indigenous people we are recognizing that Black and Indigenous people face the worst consequences of systemic white supremacy, classism and settler colonialism.” This highlights the unique experiences that Black and Indigenous communities have to whiteness and how other communities of color can perpetuate this relationship. Specifically, groups like the BIPOC Project aim to build authentic and lasting solidarity among Black, Indigenous and People of Color in order to undo Native invisibility, anti-Blackness, draw attention to iterations of white hegemony, and advance racial justice.

When should I use “BIPOC” instead of “POC?”

If you’re specifically speaking about Black and Indigenous people or communities, using “BIPOC” is appropriate. If you’re speaking broadly about all people of color, then “people of color” or “POC” can be used. The BIPOC Project specifies, “We use the term BIPOC to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.”

But, is it bad to just use POC?

No, but keep in mind that some stories, issues or representations exclude Black and Indigenous people. Sometimes the word POC can be perceived that all people of color (Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Desi, Asian, etc.) have the same exact experiences with injustice.

How do community members use this term?

Terms of self-identification are always a matter of personal choice and should be respected.

Update from Civil Rights Leadership Team

The Civil Rights Leadership Team (CRLT) met last month and decided to suspend the remaining civil rights reviews until 2021 due to the pandemic. This affects Areas 3, 15, 16, and 21. The reviews scheduled for 2021-2024 will be pushed into the following year. An updated schedule can be found at the link below.

The CRLT also has two members that are transitioning off the team: Annie Lisowski and Mike Maddox. We thank them for their passion, dedication, and service. Over the years they have helped improve the county-based review process and coached countless employees on how to expand access for underserved and underrepresented populations to Extension programs and services.

In August, a call for applications to serve on the CRLT will be sent out division-wide. We will be seeking two new members to serve on the team. The call for applications will include an overview of the CRLT structure, description of member responsibilities, incentives for service, and instructions for how to apply. Watch for it!

New on the OAIC website: anti-racism resources and document library

The Office of Access, Inclusion, and Compliance's homepage

Since it was formed last October, the Office of Access, Inclusion, and Compliance (OAIC) has continued to refine its web presence by combining aspects of the former Expanding Access (civil rights) and Language Access Team websites. One of latest enhancements is an anti-racism resource library, developed in response to the renewed attention on racial injustice in this country. The library focuses on self-directed learning for Extension colleagues. The content is organized by type: book recommendations, articles, lessons and training, videos, and links to external databases. Topics include the history of racism, structural racism in America, anti-racism work, biology, culture, housing, education, white privilege, understanding the Black Lives Matter movement, and many others.

Another effort has been to develop a one-stop shop for all the documents, forms, and templates that we use in carrying out our civil rights and expanding access responsibilities. The Language Access Team has also developed a series of infographics to assist in understanding the various aspects of translation and interpretation. The collection of these resources is now found in the documents and forms section of the OAIC website.

The Dear Asians Initiative: how translation opened the door to allyship

by Ariana Thao

The death of George Floyd has prompted a global movement against racial injustice in many domains of society. One of the policemen charged with abetting the murder of George Floyd, Officer Tou Thao, was a HMoob American police officer. Furthermore, the person who called the police on George Floyd was an Indian American shop owner in Minneapolis. The involvement of these two men has sparked conversations within non-Black communities of color around anti-Blackness and the role they play in the Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement. Black activists across the country have tasked non-Black individuals to go home and have tough conversations with their families surrounding racism and anti-Blackness.

For many Asian Americans, though, the conversations surrounding the BLM movement look and sound different. Due to language barriers, many Asian Americans do not know how to have these conversations about the BLM movement with their parents and grandparents without losing meaning or miscommunicating what was intended in the conversations. Thus, to bridge this gap, one of the earliest movements was the creation of the Dear Asians Initiative. The Dear Asians Initiative is a list of 12 letters developed by Asian Americans across the United States in 12 languages (Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, Gujarati, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese) to help better initiate the conversations surrounding the Black Lives Movement. Through these letters, the authors touch upon the relationship that Asian Americans have to the systems in the country, of the injustices that happen every day to Black Americans, and the feelings of those who authored this letter.

Office of Access, Compliance, and Inclusion

Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, language(s), background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background - people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world.

For inquiries related to this publication or if you would like to make a financial gift to support the OAIC’s work, please contact oaic@extension.wisc.edu.

Credits:

Created with images by fsHH - "technology spotlight hamburg" • Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona - "London Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protest from Vauxhall to Westminster." • Clay Banks - "Black Lives Matter (IG: @clay.banks)"