A Reflective Moment after an Emerging Leaders 365 Event Focused on Poverty, Equity and Race
This blog post was written by Erick Arteaga, an Emerging Leaders 365 donor and volunteer who attended a recent Happy Hours & Hellos event.
United Way Emerging Leaders 365 held one of their Happy Hour & Hellos on Thursday February 13th. They hold these periodically and I go to most if not all of them, but this topic was one I have a passionate interest in due to my racial and economic background. I went with my Caucasian girlfriend and had a great time meeting, networking, and talking to strangers about poverty, equity, and race over drinks and (delicious) snacks.
Before the event started, Emerging Leaders 365 donors were given a tour of Crosscut that was like a fun school field trip, but with alcohol and no buddy system. We heard from Jen Dev about how Crosscut is an ally to United Way in helping ending racial injustices in Seattle. Rosario Ortiz spoke about the Casey Family Program, which is a program I personally love. All this was followed by a speech from United Way’s CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. that hit me harder than I thought it would.
When my girlfriend and I talked about it later that night we discussed how we heard the same message, but felt differently during Gordon McHenry, Jr.’s speech. She heard, understood, and empathized with what Gordon said while I felt a melancholy like saudade. As Gordon spoke about high school graduation rates, and percentage of homelessness among people of color, I didn’t just see stock images you see on posters for UWKC or other organizations, often used to create a visual of the problem, I saw images of people I knew growing up. I saw people I speak to now that I’ve gotten to know from volunteering with United Way Emerging Leaders and of people experiencing homelessness I’ve seen so often that I know their names and check-in with them frequently.
In short, this was an event that made me proud to be an Emerging Leaders 365 donor. It uplifted my spirit because I’m able to see results of the important work we are able to do through United Way which makes a lasting impact on people’s livelihoods, raises people out of poverty, and helps with working towards racial equity. The motivation from this event inspired me to immediately check United Way’s volunteer website for any volunteer events I can join to help with Poverty, Equity, and Race to continue this important conversation and critical work.