Our national observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is a time for reflection, but also for action that can lead to long-term change. The social and economic changes that Dr. King worked and died for can only be accomplished through ongoing, daily commitment. Here at The Chicago Community Trust, this MLK Day 2022 is not only a reflection on how far we’ve come but also a reminder of how far we still have to go.
One of Dr. King’s most oft-cited quotes is: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Frequently left out are the phrases that followed: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
These words are as relevant today as they were when Dr. King first spoke them nearly 60 years ago and they continue to direct our work. Our vision at The Chicago Community Trust is of a Chicago region where equity is central, and opportunity and prosperity are within reach for all. We acknowledge the specific role discrimination and systemic barriers based on race, ethnicity, and other differences have played in limiting opportunities for too many. We see the result in a city and a region that is lagging behind its peers and not living up to its potential because it is leaving too many residents behind.
As the ongoing pandemic has demonstrated, we are all in this together. We will benefit if we can start thinking about the “single garment of destiny” that covers us all.
At the Trust, a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is core to who we are, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. It’s why closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap is a natural goal. We believe that what happens to Black and Latinx Chicagoans affects all of us.
We know that philanthropy has played a role in perpetuating systems that have not always advanced equity, and we recognize that we have the chance to do better. We are committed to making a positive difference in philanthropic community and beyond. From procurement decisions to vendor, investment managers, board members and grantee selections, we aim to use the tools at our disposal to promote the principles of DEI within the space we control.
We also recognize that the Trust still has work to do. It will take a conscientious and intentional effort to create an organization that truly exemplifies the principles behind DEI. That is why early last year we formed a DEI Council, a diverse, cross-functional group of staff from across the Trust who came together to develop a strategic roadmap and implementation plan to help us embed DEI in all that we do. Dr. King continues to call on us to look inward and recognize those opportunities for action and growth. We must build an ethos that holds our organization accountable for living the values that we embrace and espouse. When it comes to our own behavior, we must truly walk the walk. We can push ourselves every day to be more than what we are.
The Trust is part of a growing coalition that is changing the narrative about racial and economic equity in our nation. Within our own walls, we can demonstrate how to live that vision. We can model the behavior that we are urging on others.
Mahatma Gandhi, a major influence on Dr. King, often instructed his disciples: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As we strive to bring equity, opportunity and prosperity to every corner of the Chicago region, we will stay forever mindful that that our work to change society for the better must be reflected by change from within.
Only in this way can we truly achieve Dr. King’s “network of mutuality” and create the “single garment of identity” that he envisioned. Never has that mission been more urgent than today.