21-Day Equity Challenge Reflection: Andrea Cook

by Andrea Cook, Program Director, Johnston Partnership Place

When United Way of Central Iowa announced the 21-Day Equity Challenge, I did all the things a non-profit program director should: emailed the information out to my Board members, staff and volunteers, signed up myself, fielded the questions that inevitably arose. But I was nervous. My daily work brings me face-to-face with people from many walks of life. I can guarantee I have not handled every situation correctly, but just how much was I going to dislike the reflection in the mirror I would see over this month?

This year has thrown a lot of challenges our way, including the bright light that has been shown on our systemic bias around race, income, culture, LGBTQ+, and more. I have a college-aged daughter that takes seriously her place in this world and how to fix all that is broken. We have a lot of great discussions on our current situation, but also many serious, contentious, and day-long exchanges that have pushed and pulled me. She corrects my choice of words, challenges my thinking, and puts me outside of my comfort zone regularly. I pride myself on being a life-long learner, but because my identity (white, straight, able, cis-gender) is the default in our culture and so much is geared towards me, I know the bulk of the work is on my end.

Instead of focusing on everything I have done wrong, the 21 Day Equity Challenge has given concrete steps to act, think and move forward. To educate ourselves on what it means to be those who have suffered from our broken systems but not to dwell and get stuck in how horrible it all is. We as a country, a state, a community have inflicted pain and suffering on our fellow citizens; now what are we going to do about it? This week, we’ve been given tools and resources to move towards a better future.

Will we get it right? Probably not the first time! But we can learn from new mistakes, not the same old ones. Intersectionality demands that we do better if all our community is going to succeed. One of my favorite quotes from Brené Brown — “I’m here to get it right, not be right” — reminds that it’s not about me but about us.

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