Equity Evolution: CAN’s Growth Story

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"Service to other is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. " -Muhammad Ali June 21, 2021

The Beginning of Our Journey

Happy Monday Everyone!

So, as I wind down my Juneteenth weekend in Oakland, CA – a large community event, followed by a “PRIDE 4 Juneteenth” gathering, and lastly, an intimate conversation with friends about token gestures vs real systemic change – I thought what an appropriate time to begin what CAN hopes will be some communal learning with our field.

As some of you may know, CAN made an intentional and deliberate shift in how we see ourselves as an organization, how we engage with the Expanded Learning field, the rest of the TK-12 system, and all youth-serving fields with which we partner. Before the pandemic, we had started on this “learner journey” to quote our partners at JVH Empower. We weren’t sure where we were going, we just knew we needed to move, and then the pandemic hit. George Floyd was murdered, and the world was so still that it couldn’t hide from the daily reality that exists for some of us in this country. As a collective, we witnessed how inhumanely a Black man was treated for 9 minutes and 29 seconds until he died right in front of us, calling out for his Mother. This happened in front of children (thank you for your courage Darnella Frazier and congratulations on your Pulitzer) and other witnesses in broad daylight. At this moment, CAN wanted to be explicit about our anti-racist stance and our commitment to doing this both internally and in our field-facing work. Since then, we have spoken up about some issues, maybe not as quickly as some would have wanted and too quickly for others. And that is part of the reason for this blog post – among other things, we hope to use this platform to share our ongoing journey with you.

We want to share and engage with all of you as we navigate becoming an anti-racist organization that holds ‘equity for all’ as our driver. In this process, we will make mistakes, we will speak our truth at that moment, and we will work to continue learning as we evolve. Please note that I said “we.” This journey will not be documented from only my voice, as the Black woman on the team. We believe that everyone has work to do in the fight for liberation. And that means that everyone’s voice, experience, and path should be honored, elevated, and celebrated as the growth of our collective. In our work, we mention things like creating a “generative social field” and all that means is that we believe in creating just spaces where power is distributive, decisions are made through a lens of equity, and we are willing to be uncomfortable enough to learn and grow together. 

As we discussed this process internally, a team member expressed concern – how will we ensure this is not an empty gesture, that CAN does not just speak to change, but is actually changing. My response – that is yet another reason we are using this platform to share our story. We want you to become our accountability partners in this journey. Our process for change has a simple arc – Awareness and Education → Application and Accountability → Increased Ability and Sustainable Growth. Over time and as our partners in the work, you should see and experience every space that CAN holds, leads, and supports differently. We, as individuals and as an organization, should be able to articulate the specific shifts in our organizational practices, policies, and strategies. 

Again, we won’t always get it perfect, but we are trying and we are mindful of both our intent and our impact. So, as we explore our own identities, and all that entails, you will get to know us as individuals, how we support the work of CAN, things that inspire, anger, confuse, and hopefully, in the long run, continue to make us better humans on this planet where we pay rent with our service. We will engage in this conversation on several platforms so if you don’t already, please follow us on Twitter, IG, FB, and of course the CAN website. We also hope to invite other partners and community members to share their lives and lessons as well. 

So having said that, welcome to our journey…


Your partner in this work,

Tiffany Gipson