Danvers, MA — A 13-member committee made up of a diverse cross-section of local leaders is joining Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) – a nonprofit serving the 34 cities and towns of Essex County – in implementing a new strategy designed to advance racial equity and racial justice within the organization and throughout Essex County.
“The events of the past year have revealed the depths of racial inequity that exist in our country, and right here in Essex County,” said ECCF President and CEO Beth Francis. “It became clear that it was time for the foundation, as a leader in the community, to mobilize and take action, and we are so fortunate to have such a passionate group of individuals working with us to move our region forward.”
The racial equity committee is being chaired by Essex County resident Ana Colmenero, who began working with ECCF in 2017, first as a charter member of the steering committee for ECCF’s Creative County Initiative and more recently as a member of the foundation’s board of trustees.
“I am so honored to be a part of this critical work that will ultimately help to tear down walls built by decades of structural racism,” said Colmenero. “By working together as a community, I believe we can make changes in Essex County that lead it to becoming a more just and equitable region for all residents.”
Additional committee members, chosen for their knowledge and understanding of the way racial inequities and injustice impact the region, include: Karen Ansara, Noemi Custodia-Lora, Dean Marsh, Felicia Pierce, Elsabel Rincon, Pedro Soto, Claudia Fox Tree, John Wang and ECCF Board members John Colucci, Bob Goldman, Christine Ortiz and Anita Worden.
How We Got Here
The decision to embed racial equity and justice as a foundational piece to all of ECCF’s work came last year, as COVID began to disproportionately ravage communities of color, awareness of violence against Black people increased, and events surrounding the presidential election revealed the depth of our nation’s veiled racism. In the spring of 2020, ECCF began to intentionally seek out ways to more deeply understand longstanding racial inequities that exist right here in own back yards and explore the role the foundation could play in advancing a more racially just and equitable Essex County.
The new committee will advise ECCF staff and trustees in its current and evolving racial equity work and hold the organization accountable for the actions needed to effectively bring about change.
The process will be guided by the following pillars, developed as part of a larger, thoughtfully crafted plan, which will serve to ground the work we do every day – both internally and externally – in our cities and towns:
- Listen, Learn and Reflect. ECCF, as part of its learning process, continuously reflects on why and how racial inequities exist to inform our work and spur action and change within the organization and throughout our region.
- Organizational Action. ECCF and its work are grounded in equitable and inclusive practices, creating conditions and modeling actions that advance racial equity towards a racially just world.
- Systemic Change. ECCF, in its role as a community leader, inspires philanthropy and influences efforts that result in more equitable systems and structures, giving greater access and opportunity to all in Essex County.
“Racial injustice did not happen overnight, nor will we reverse it overnight,” said Francis. “We are learning, changing and growing within our organization every day, and as we advance this critical work, we look forward to collaborating with others who share our vision and passion for a more just and equitable Essex County.”
For more information about ECCF’s racial equity work, please visit eccf.org/racial-equity/.
The mission of Essex County Community Foundation is to inspire philanthropy that strengthens the communities of Essex County. We do this by managing charitable assets, strengthening and supporting nonprofits and engaging in strategic community leadership. Since 1998, ECCF and its family of 250 charitable funds have granted $107 million to nonprofits, schools and students in Essex County and beyond. Our ultimate goal is to have 34 thriving cities and towns in Essex County and to improve the quality of life for the region’s nearly 800,000 residents. Learn more at eccf.org.