In my “other” professional life, my non-Compassionate Atlanta life that is (how is that possible?), I do a lot of work in cultural diversity and inclusion. Usually, my work focuses integrating immigrants, people of color and African Americans in an intentional and meaningful way in majority Anglo businesses and institutions. I love that work and I find it very fulfilling.
Even with my extensive professional and personal relationship with diversity and inclusion, Compassionate Atlanta has stretched me even further and I love ALL of it! Did you know that we at CA got a grant to host community conversations on _____ (fill in the blank with an issue that is relevant to you) inclusive of those with developmental disabilities. How do we have inclusive conversations about everyday social issues that include people with different abilities? Our first conversation was at the Fraser Center about environmental accessibility. I learned that there are no old growth forests in Atlanta with wheelchair accessibility. As I listened to each of the attendees who use wheelchairs, I was amazed as to their experience of invisibility. My first take away was that each of them was an activist. To get out of their homes in the morning, requires acts of activism. To roll down the streets in downtown Decatur requires advocacy. To get on MARTA and be able to have access to a working properly placed elevator requires aforethought. These resilient individuals become invisible because the world does not consider the particulars of their own circumstances, unless they make a lot of noise. Based on their stories, they never seem to be heard the first time.
We have another conversation coming up this Sunday (more details here) and it is about access to fresh food (or lack there of) and how our local farmers markets are trying to change this dynamic. We will learn how we each can make an difference and a meaningful impact. We are working on several others: One with the refugee community in Clarkston (July 21st) and another called Creating Radically Inclusive Communities sometime in August. Two others include, Compassion for Our Mother Earth on September 7th at the Clarkston Community Center and another on intersectionality in the LGBTQIA+ Community in September.
The preliminary work I have done on this subject has stretched me and opened up my world view. I thought I was an old pro at including all manner of humans in my work. Yet, although I am sensitive to the needs of folks who use wheels instead of legs (I have a friend who is a recent double amputee), there is so much I do not know about how people with different abilities navigate the world. For instance, I am going to exploring the questions of how do refugees with children with autism navigate governmental resources when they are deeply distrusting of anything related to the government because of the previous persecution they have lived through? I had never thought about that one before!
I wonder, have you noticed the needs of people with different abilities? If you have a business, how are you intentionally challenging yourself to make space for those you do not understand, do not look like you, or have visible or invisible barriers to access your business? Is that important to you?
This business of being compassionate requires ongoing growth and suggests that we challenge ourselves so that we can be part of a diverse and inclusive world where all people feel at home.
Hit reply to this email and let me know how we as the staff of Compassionate Atlanta can support you in making your business or organization a space where people with all abilities will feel welcomed! And look out for these community conversations as we announce them. We really want you, our partners and supporters to come and be part of what we are doing.
In the meantime, big hugs (if you want them)! Peace!