Our Commitment to Racial Equity

Our Vision

ACT for Alexandria (ACT) envisions a community where all residents can achieve their full potential and where the color of one’s skin, ethnicity, or citizenship status do not determine their outcomes in life.

Although ACT has always been dedicated to improving the lives of all Alexandrians, we have not been explicit about the need to dismantle systemic and institutional racism until recently. The lives of all Alexandrians will improve when people of color can live freely without being restrained by racism. By prioritizing racial equity, we can help create an environment that will also lead to the dismantling of other forms of oppression, including ableism, ageism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. (please review the resources at the end of this document for details on definitions of these terms)

Context

The City of Alexandria, a community of 160,000 residents, is home to a wonderfully rich diversity of races, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. But, because of systemic and institutional racism, Black, Latinx, Asian, and indigenous people do not have the same opportunities to thrive. Compared to their white counterparts, these groups are more likely to experience housing instability, food insecurity, and have worse health outcomes. Such inequality hurts us all. When some of our neighbors can’t thrive, our community can’t thrive.

For example, the Alexandria City Public School (ACPS) system identified racial equity as a top priority due to concerning, long-standing differences in student performance. In the 2018-19 school year, ACPS reported 67% of Black students and 52% of Hispanic students passed reading tests compared to 89% of white students. What impact does this lost potential have on the individuals and the community as a whole?

Unfortunately, these disparities have been in place for decades; the Secret Seven, a group of black activists fought for equity for Black students in ACPS schools during the 1960s. They are one example of leaders in Alexandria’s Black, Latinx, Asian, and indigenous communities serving as organizers and change-agents, taking action to combat racism and discrimination. We honor and are inspired by the work of these past and current leaders and seek to be a responsive, supportive ally.

The history of racism and discrimination in our community mirrors the history of our nation. As noted in the ALL Alexandria Race and Social Equity Resolution adopted by the Alexandria City Council, Alexandria was built on the land of the Indigenous Peoples of the Conoy paramount chiefdom and the Powhatan paramount chiefdom, was colonized by European settlers, and was a hub in the nation’s domestic slave trade. This history is difficult to acknowledge. However, considerations of the past (both the stains and the triumphs) can fuel innovation and action in the present to ensure that the arc of history bends towards justice.

Our commitment

We will:

  • Use our power and influence in service to community members who have been marginalized and discriminated against because of their race.
  • Invest resources in community leaders and in programs and ideas prioritized by people most impacted by systemic racism.
  • Take responsibility for learning about and understanding the impact of systemic and institutional racism in our community.
  • Examine the ways our organization perpetuates racism, bias and discrimination at the interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels and take steps to change our behaviors, practices, and policies.

Our commitment is rooted in ACT’s organizational values which stress the importance of listening to and learning from others, serving as a bridge builder and connector, taking on big challenges, respecting the diversity of the people of Alexandria and being intentional in what we do.

2021 Action Plan

Based on our commitment and values, we have identified the following priorities for our work in  2021:

Programs:

  • The Alexandria Resilience Fund will prioritize systemic solutions that address wealth and income disparity (July 2021)
  • Launch a grant program to support grassroots organizing and advocacy (September 2021)
  • Invest in the Youth Support Network and ensure young people of color thrive (on-going)
  • Host the IMPACT Forum and provide an opportunity for collective learning about racial equity (June, 2021)
  • Provide workshops on racial equity and allyship (on-going)

Outreach & communications:

  • Write five essays and op-eds to advocate for programs and policies that address racism and promote racial equity
  • Share community voices and perspectives in ACT newsletters and other communications
  • Attend local grassroots meetings to enhance our cultural humility and cultural competency (September, 2021)

Governance:

  • Include at least 10 community members on ACT boards and committees (on-going)
  • Nurture a diverse board where 25% of members are people of color (on-going)
  • Create a racial equity roadmap (an annual workplan with performance metrics) and review it at every board meeting to assess progress (June 2021)

An Invitation

Creating a racially just community requires the commitment and action of many. It will not be easy, and we will make mistakes along the way.  As we move forward, we invite you to:

  • learn alongside with us as we deepen our understanding of institutional and system racism,
  • share your personal experiences to inform our work and priorities,
  • take steps to be an ally to people most impacted by racism, and
  • hold us accountable for our commitment by letting us know when fall short.

We look forward to working in partnership with you.  If you have thoughts or comments about this statement or ACT’s work to support a racially equitable Alexandria, please reach out to Heather Peeler, heather.peeler@actforalexandria.org.

Resources

Aspen Institute Glossary for Understanding the Dismantling of Structural Racism

ALL Alexandria Resolution:  Committing to Race and Social Equity

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