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Midtown Atlanta Rotary Takes Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to Heart

by William Parker & Renée Weese Co-chairs, MARC DE&I Team

Just over one year ago, the Midtown Atlanta Rotary Club (MARC) began a “self-reflection” study to take the pulse of the Club in hopes of gaining insight into how we might collectively determine our strategic direction. Through an initial survey of members, it was determined that, among other attributes, MARC’s diversity was highly appreciated. Shortly after the survey, George Floyd was killed, and our leadership asked the Self-Reflection Team to take DEI into consideration and recommend a course of action for MARC. This work was documented in the MARC Response on Bias and Racial Injustice, which included the establishment of a new MARC Board seat for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). The recommendation was adopted, and the MARC DE&I Team was born. President Rocky Ford and the Board created two new Board positions to ensure a permanent focus on DE&I.

Led by new Board members William Parker and Renee Weese, our DE&I Team has met almost weekly to discern and effect what DE&I can mean to Rotary, to our Club and most importantly to our members and the Community we serve. We have begun implementing our strategic plan for DE&I to provide opportunities for exploration, both as individual members and as a Club. Members Peter Chatel and Sophie Mason have stepped up to lead meaningful book discussions which have provided enlightened perspectives for many. Other central tenets of our work have included following the Rotary 4-Way Test and the DE&I mission of Rotary International, as presented on rotary.org.

It’s a huge task which feels overwhelming at times. But from sharing our stories with each other, the one thing we landed on quickly is that in order to effect positive, lasting change, we must get to know one another’s stories…our truths. From that realization came our monthly speaker series, "The Truth Be Told". On May 26th we hosted a virtual diversity workshop The Truth Be Told: Through Others’ Eyes. Our consultant, Tim White, was the facilitator.

MARC’s goal is to create a culture within our Club that seeks to understand the diversities in our community, cultivates relationships and provides an inviting experience, so that our Club membership becomes a reflection of the diverse community we serve. To that end, we hope to leverage our ideals as Rotarians, along with the ideas, skills and passions of our members to befriend, recruit and engage our Community to create lasting change for DE&I.

In the words of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, author of Just Mercy, and subject of the Emmy winning HBO documentary, True Justice: “We cannot create justice without getting close to places where injustices prevail. We have to get proximate… It’s important to understand the ugly details so we can one day claim something really beautiful.”

Posted by James Yost
June 4, 2021

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