You might be surprised to learn that District has more civil legal service providers per square foot than any other jurisdiction in the country. It shows that we care deeply about our residents, and we have the collective desire to ensure that everyone has access to civil legal services. While I am pleased that we have so many different organizations in the legal services network, we know that various barriers make it difficult for residents to get the services they need.
One of the most significant barriers our neighbors face is a lack of racial equity within the system. To reach our goal of making sure that all District residents have access to civil legal aid services, we must infuse racial equity across the entire civil legal aid network. At the DC Bar Foundation, we have started by looking at ourselves critically and evolving our practices and culture to learn, reflect, unlearn, and change how we pursue justice.
Today, in light of Black History Month, I would like to provide an update on the Foundation's racial equity journey thus far:
DCBF conducted a grantee diversity survey in April 2021 to collect demographic data on staff, leadership, and board compositions. We understand that advancing racial equity in the civil legal aid network means becoming as diverse as the community we serve.
DCBF continued to offer grantees a four-part training series on racial equity and racial justice. The DCBF Board and staff also received similar racial equity training. These trainings, facilitated by Service Never Sleeps, focus on four areas: allyship, white supremacy, bias and microaggressions, and building equity.
DCBF commissioned racial equity assessments of the Foundation's grantmaking processes, operations, and overall structure, resulting in a draft racial equity roadmap that outlines specific recommended actions and timelines to continue advancing DCBF's racial equity priorities within our Strategic Framework. This draft roadmap is something we are continuously working on developing and specifying – it is a living work in progress. This process is monitored by members of the Foundation's Racial Equity Work Group (REWG), who have been gathering quarterly to determine priority actions among the recommendations and realistic timelines for each action.
DCBF will create a Racial Equity Learning Network for our grantees. We will provide updates on this project as it emerges.
Out of all of these updates, I want to take a moment to specifically acknowledge the DC Bar Foundation's Racial Equity Work Group, which is composed of DCBF Board Members and Staff. In the words of Ron Flagg, DCBF Board Member and REWG Chair, "this is not a committee created to check a box… We are all involved with this committee to make sure our racial equity work has an impact."
We are not working to build this racial equity roadmap so that it can sit on a shelf or make the Foundation feel good about starting conversations around racial equity. In its final form, this roadmap will be a tangible, organization-wide strategy that will touch all areas of our work: Communications, Development, Operations, and Programs.
The collective pursuit of racial justice and racial equity by DCBF’s leadership, staff, and extended family are critical to the transformation we seek in the District’s civil legal aid network. I invite you to join us in this effort.
Together, we can ensure that every District resident has access to our civil justice system without regard to race, income, or power.
Kirra L. Jarratt
Chief Executive Officer