DEI Task Force
THE PDC DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION TASK FORCE
Following the lead of the National Main Street Center, in recent years the Pennsylvania Downtown Center has been engaged in critical analysis and reflection on the role our organization and our affiliates can play in advancing the values of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, Justice, and Belonging.
Main Street should be a place for all. In its highest and best form it is a gathering place where we can all come together to celebrate, demonstrate, rejoice, grieve, honor, and grow together. It is a shared place, a sacred place – a special place.
Since 2017, the Pennsylvania Downtown Center has conducted a board composition review, participated in and sponsored trainings in anti-racism and civil discourse, authorized the creation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, conducted an internal organizational equity assessment, and approved the development of a DEI statement for the organization. While equity played a silent role in earlier work at the PDC and in the culture at large, we recognize that it is neither realistic nor adequate to expect an unspoken goal to be realized or sustained.
TELLING THE FULLER STORY – ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Many community revitalization efforts historically arose out of exclusive impulses, whether seeking to maintain white ownership and control of property or to gate-keep who belongs downtown based on less explicitly racist economic criteria. It was common practice for several decades in community revitalization to assume that we had moved on from such hateful practices; however, not repudiating them directly allowed the underlying ideas to fester. When we are honest about the realities of color-blind community revitalization over the past 30 years, those circles have been almost entirely white, thanks to structural barriers like de facto residential, educational, and professional segregation. Nor is race the only dimension of exclusion typically associated with historic preservation and community development. Consider as well lack of access on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, age, ability, economic status, gender identity, etc. All of that in turn has consequences for the work we have done and the downtown and neighborhood environments we have helped to create over the years. In reality, while hoping to be welcoming to all, we have often only been welcoming to some.
We can do better. We must do better.
To address these issues, the PDC has assembled a DEI Task Force, including PDC board members, staff, representatives from member communities, and allied organizations. That group has met throughout 2022 to chart a path forward. There is much to be done and initial discussions have included a range of topics, from reviewing previous DEI work undertaken to assembling resources, from considering potential training initiatives to conducting internal assessments. The outcome so far includes the drafting of a statement about the Main Street Ethic and the laying out of potential priorities. The statement, available as of December 2022, is intended to assist communities taking on conflict and working to put their DEI values into practice. The assembled menu of action items will play a key role in upcoming strategic planning the PDC board will kick off in early 2023.
Among other tasks moving forward, the DEI Task Force will make recommendations to the PDC board as to how it should be constituted in the future, i.e. to continue as an ad hoc Task Force, become a standing committee, or assume some other form. The Task Force as formed to date includes people of different backgrounds, experiences, and identities, aspiring to represent the diversity of the Commonwealth. PDC members and affiliates who may be interested in participating in this project in future are asked to email Samantha Pearson (firstname.lastname@example.org) with an expression of interest and some indication of your relevant experience. Even if you are not available to actively join the task force, we welcome your input, whether in response to any material presented or on the subject at large. We look forward to hearing from you.
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein
What Does It Mean to Be White, Robin DiAngelo