A Fresh Approach to Diversity | Omega

Omega recently hosted and participated in an important 3-day diversity training led by the Opening Doors Diversity Project. Participants from across New York’s Hudson Valley included representatives from Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Hudson River Housing, LGBTQ Task Force to Undo Racism, Dutchess County Human Resources, Local Economies Project, and Cornell Cooperative Extension 4H Youth Development. Each participant was there to review how they personally and professionally relate to diversity, and learn strategies and tools to bring back to their organizations and communities.

Opening Doors facilitators, Kathy Castania, Maryellen Whittington-Couse, and Eduardo Gonzalez, Jr., led participants through exercises to identify and explore their experiences in the current dominant/excluded model at work in our society—a “power over” approach. Then they introduced a partnership model—a “power with” approach. Participants learned to identify overt, implicit, and internalized oppression and discovered how to become responsible allies.

The training drew on real-life examples of oppression, primarily through storytelling by facilitators and participants. For example, facilitator/apprentice, Ricardo Adams, shared, “Saying, ‘Black lives matter,’ and someone responding, ‘All lives matter,’ is like saying, ‘Cancer is bad,’ and someone responding, ‘What about tuberculosis?’” Ricardo’s example illustrates how this way of thinking prevents us from recognizing and working together to address real issues for each oppression.

The training led participants to think through a number of important questions, like what dominant and excluded groups have you been part of throughout your lifetime? Have you experienced privileges as a member of a dominant group or the disempowerment of an excluded group? Has your experience been a combination of both? How can you use this awareness to notice and interrupt interpersonal and institutional oppression?

"This training helped my colleagues and I take important next steps on our personal learning journeys. It was very valuable to learn alongside peers in our region, since we can meet again and support each other to make changes in our communities and institutions," said Susan Grove, Omega's community engagement manager. "As Omega looks to support leaders who want to address inequitable systems that marginalize people, we are grateful that Opening Doors provided a learning experience that forged strong connections with leaders in our community." 

Facilitator Kathy Castania expressed high hopes for our region as a result of the targeted recruitment of local individuals who organize on issues of social justice. Workshop participants are in the process of organizing a follow up meeting to share how they are applying the insights they gained and to explore how they can work collaboratively moving forward.

To learn more, explore these fact sheets written by Kathy Castania: What Is Diversity? and The Evolving Language of Diversity.  



Jamie Levato, training organizer

Kathy Castania, Opening Doors Diversity Project training facilitator

Ricardo Adams, Opening Doors Diversity Project facilitator apprentice/participant

Maryellen Whittington-Couse, Opening Doors Diversity Project training facilitator

Eduardo Gonzalez, Jr., Opening Doors Diversity Project training facilitator


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