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Open Letter on Race Equity from MBEP Leadership

Dear MBEP Members, Partners, and Supporters,

After the series of events that recently occurred in our country, I was dismayed and heartbroken and struggled to put into words a message to the university community that I lead that would be an adequate response. The callous disregard for the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor is just the latest in a long list of murders that are rooted in racial injustice. As our cities across the region and beyond experienced justified protests, as well as unfortunate rioting and chaos, I knew we must face this inescapable moment in time amidst the compounded crises of COVID-19 and the economic downturn.

However, over the next several days, more hopeful signs emerged. The protests against racial injustice have spread to every state in the Union, and internationally as well. The crowds have been peaceful, multiracial, and have drawn large numbers of young people determined to eradicate structural racism from our society. It should give all of us reason to hope that this will finally be the historical turning point that expunges our nation’s original sin.

So I am writing to you today as board chair of the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) with a more optimistic message. I am proud to have been one of the early supporters and board members of MBEP, as I believed back then as I do now, that creating a gender and racially diverse group of stakeholders from multiple geographies, political perspectives, and sectors is the best way to address the challenges we face. The important work MBEP does every day – creating more affordable housing; creating more access to opportunity and education to help our lower-income communities so that all have a path to prosperity; providing ubiquitous broadband access – addresses the root causes of racial inequities in actionable ways and will define and shape the future of our region for years to come. 

Our MBEP members are putting in place new processes, policies, training, and programs that question the status quo and recommit to dismantling racial bias in their workplaces. Here are just a few examples:

  • The City of Watsonville is revamping its police training and implementing new employee training and onboarding processes.
  • Bay Federal Credit Union is encouraging its employees to educate themselves and, as its CEO Carrie Birkhofer said, “ … focus on the important work that needs to be done as individuals, as a company, as a community, as a nation, and as a world of human beings to bring equality and justice for all – in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, and always.”
  • United Way of Monterey County’s CEO Katy Castagna is taking a closer look at its own internal processes, and calling on our Monterey Bay community to “change the systems that perpetuate racial inequity.”  

This moment reminds us of the importance of equity as part of MBEP’s triple bottom line values, alongside economy and environment. Now as we strive to “double down” on the equity part of our mission, and be more intentional in how we dismantle systems that have been barriers to accessing justice for all, MBEP is doing a few things that I wanted to share:

  • MBEP will be facilitating virtual “Member Mixer” roundtable discussions for those of our members who want to discuss recent events in a safe space. For more information or if your organization would like to sponsor any part of this series, please click here or contact Melanie McNulty.
  • A lot of MBEP’s work is behind the scenes and doesn’t always garner front-page news. One of these activities, in particular, I wanted to highlight here. Since February MBEP has been leading a Regions Rising initiative with CA Forward and a group of local diverse stakeholders to develop a comprehensive inclusive economic development plan for the Salinas Valley. This initiative aims to identify a shared transformational leadership vision of economic expansion and mobility developed with input from, and led by, affected and disenfranchised communities. Through this work, we aim to identify the specific systems changes, new patterns, investments, and actions needed to achieve a shared vision for inclusive economic development grounded in common values. Just last week MBEP submitted a grant application to support this work, so stay tuned for updates on this important initiative which has racial equity at its core. 
  • MBEP’s President and CEO, Kate Roberts, has given Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist book to every staff member, and encouraged the board to read as well, as I have also done with my staff and our wider CSUMB Otter community. 
  • MBEP has created a survey that seeks input from members on 1) actionable ways MBEP can help with the racial equity work we all need to prioritize, and 2) how we can help navigate the current economic crisis. If you are an MBEP member we hope that you will respond. 

And at CSUMB we have made inclusive excellence one of the four high-level priorities of our new strategic plan. Working with the President’s Committee on Equity and Inclusion, our chief diversity officer Brian Corpening is crafting a diversity plan with specific measurable goals to enhance the diversity of our faculty and staff and to create an inclusive, welcoming environment for all members of our community. Accordingly, we will specifically take steps to address unconscious bias across our processes and interactions.

In closing, I wanted to suggest one more concrete action. The MBEP team will be attending a virtual town hall meeting presented by the NAACP. Since 1909, the NAACP, one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations, has been seeking to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons. I’d like to encourage you to register for this NAACP virtual town hall with NAACP President and CEO, Derrick Johnson, Wednesday, June 10  at 5 p.m. that will discuss the global public health crisis and incidents of hate crimes, which have laid bare the disparities and systemic racism present throughout our nation. The conversation will be moderated by journalist Ed Gordon and will provide an opportunity for audience questions. You can register for this free event here: https://www.naacp.org/virtual-town-hall/

I couldn’t be more proud of our community’s response to these cumulative crises, and to serve on the board of MBEP, an organization that truly embraces equity as a part of its core values. We look forward to working with all of you as we commit to proactively taking steps to build empathy and create a racially just world. 

In gratitude,

 

Dr. Eduardo Ochoa

President, CSU Monterey Bay and MBEP Board Chair

Photo: Shmuel Thaler
Courtesy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Photo: David Royal
Courtesy of the Monterey Herald.

Photo: Brandon Vallance
Courtesy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Photo: Shmuel Thaler
Courtesy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Photo: Nicholas Ibarra
Courtesy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.