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Sacred Fire Creative continued its virtual forums on diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging on February 8, 2021. For this specific forum, guest speaker Latonya Latamore, Ph.D., led a conversation on developing allies and advocates for DEI.

About Dr. Latonya Latamore

Dr. Latamore is a Fairfax, Virginia-based educator and founder of Harmony Strategic Solutions, LLC. While her organization is still in its infancy, Dr. Latamore said she has personally encountered racism professionally and in her day-to-day life.

The insights she imparted to the group included the way holidays are celebrated in the US. She said holidays in the country are primarily based on Christianity. Christian Americans don’t have to use their paid time off to enjoy a Christian holiday. On the other hand, Americans of different cultures or religions will have to use their earned vacation days just so they could celebrate what they believe in.

Dr. Latamore also shared her daughter’s experience as a figure skater. Her daughter has been criticized and overly judged because she’s Black. Moreover, she doesn’t look like a traditional figure skater who is white and of a certain height and build.

Points to understand about conversations on race

Dr. Latamore raised the following points about open conversations on race:

  • It may not always be the most comfortable or pleasurable conversation to be in. That’s because the journey for allyship and advocacy isn’t the same for everyone. Everyone is in a different and unique area of the learning curve.
  • Conversations on racism are forever evolving. Once we believe we have found the solution, some other element or variable will surface.
  • It’s important to continuously analyze and monitor goals and projected outcomes. This will ensure that we are diligently helping to eliminate the inequities that racism causes.
  • We can achieve these goals by continuing to self-educate through attending webinars and talks and reading published materials on the topic.

Defining allyship and advocacy

Dr. Latamore defined the terms “allyship” and “advocacy” using the book Allies and Advocates: Creating an Inclusive and Equitable Culture by Amber Cabral.

Allyship

Allyship is when someone with privilege and power seeks to learn about the experiences of a marginalized group of people, develops empathy for them, and identifies ways to extend their own privilege to the marginalized group. Allies are identified by their ability to apply what they have learned about a group of people and find ways to transfer the benefits of their privilege to those who lack it.

Allyship requires taking the time to become invested in and have an emotional connection to marginalized people who are different from you. The part to zoom in on is the labor part of allyship. An ally seeks to learn and do the labor of understanding so they can connect and build empathy. To be an ally, you have to do the work, and most of the work is on yourself. “Ally” is not a title; it is a verb.

Advocacy

Advocacy is defined as the process where someone with privilege and power is willing to take steps to protect, publicly support, and dismantle systems against a marginalized group of people. To be an advocate, you have to be willing to do additional work beyond getting familiar with the nuances of marginalized groups and developing empathy for them. It is about taking action to change how others experience the world. Similar to allyship, advocacy is not a title. It is a verb.

Points to understand about the allyship and advocacy process

When it comes to starting the process of allyship and advocacy, Dr. Latamore raised the following points:

  • We need to understand where we are right now. Racial situations are occurring and in public, and even racial scarring from past government administrations.
  • We need to be honest with ourselves about what happened historically. We need to understand the different types of legislation that have been developed to protect certain classes of people, and why different legislative initiatives have been developed for marginalized people.
  • We need to start conversations about allyship and advocacy, not only in our individual groups but also within an organizational structure. All of this should begin at the executive level or with the people who actually make the decisions within the organization. These decisions can include providing additional training for line-level staff and mid-level managers.
  • It’s important that the right people are doing the work of allyship in the organization because it’s not easy work.
  • Change management, continuous auditing, open lines of communication, and transparency are necessary.

Questions to discuss

The forum participants were then divided into breakout groups to discuss the following questions:

  1. Where are you positioned with power and access to make change?
  2. Where do you have influence?
  3. Where do you have privilege, and who developed the standard that you are using?
  4. Is that standard necessary? Why does that standard exist? Is the standard preventing other cultures to participate?
  5. Have you considered how you’re limiting yourself and missing out on resources, opportunities, talent, and relationships because of unreasonable standards?

Sacred Fire Creative continues the dialogue with its lineup of DEIB virtual forums. Check the schedule of these events and join the conversation today: http://bit.ly/3bC6fV7.