On the morning of October 14th, 2017 during the final session of the Atlantic Expedition to Chicago and Houston, the group convened to discuss what already seemed to be its groundbreaking topic: diversity and inclusion. An expressed and unexpressed consensus among all fellows on the question, “what are the invaluable benefits of diversity and inclusion?” could be achieved throughout the trip and was manifested during the final discussion. Indeed, diversity and inclusion unintentionally appeared to be a major theme, threading through nearly every memo, every project proposal and every discussion along our way.
Choosing Chicago and Houston as host cities for the joint fellowship excursion to the United States, the Atlantic Expedition decided to take a road less traveled in the transatlantic debate. This choice propelled the expedition to explore transatlantic relations outside of the common transatlantic hubs, such as New York City or Washington D.C. Chicago and Houston serve as prominent examples of how diversity and inclusion are promoted and lived daily. Both cities’ populations are increasingly diverse, with residents from a great variety of races and ethnicities; with Chicago having gone through numerous waves of immigration in the late 19th century and the Greater Houston area supposedly being the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the United States. The participants of the second Atlantic expedition embody this diversity by being from or descending from a variety of places, such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, India, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Russia and of course the United States of America, thus reinforcing the vibrancy of different races and ethnicities. Albeit commonly being regarded as an ‘empty’ term when utilized by most politicians or academics, the Atlantic Expedition explored what diversity truly entails, ideas on how it can and should be promoted in the transatlantic doctrine as well as its social, political, cultural and economic affairs. Through the diverse identities and backgrounds of the fellows, the two cities, and an inclusive selection of speakers, the Atlantic Expedition could understand the importance of diversity and inclusion on all levels of society.
Living Diversity and Inclusion: Chief Art Acevedo and Ebony DeBerry
Among the fellows, there seemed to be an agreement on the speakers with the most impactful narratives, the most authentic voices, and the most effectual grassroots and communal approaches, which serve as a precedent for analyzing transatlantic affairs and problems. Chicago’s social community activist, Ebony DeBerry, social worker and community leader at ONE Northside Chicago, and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo are key examples. Both, although holding different professions, locations, ethnicities and political views, emphasized that great, long-term change of (transatlantic) social, political and economic affairs necessitates a communal, bottom-up approach.
On the Chicago leg of the expedition, the fellows visited ONE Northside, an organization based on community development. Its mission is organizing neighborhoods for equality. Ms. Ebony DeBerry spoke with the most heart-warming smile about the challenges, goals, and success of the organization for the year 2016-2017. ONE Northside offers a community meeting and organizing space for the residents of the North Side of Chicago, embracing diversity and bringing together a mixed-income, multi-ethnic, intergenerational crowd of people, hence truly reflecting its communities. The organization’s goal is to effect change in its communities in order to give everyone the opportunity to thrive, based on a set of shared values of racial, social, and economic justice. The success of one is the success of all. With this in mind, ONE Northside has taken up numerous significant projects. In 2016-2017, for example, the organization has preserved 1.261 units of affordable housing, helped to pass a minimum wage ordinance in Cook County, and has trained over 600 community leaders in communal and civic engagement.
This success of ONE Northside is based on their promotion of diversity, via the implementation of grassroots movements and the integration of social issues. Inclusion becomes the new normal. The Atlantic Expedition and ONE Northside have both decided to use a bottom-up approach by listening to the voices of local citizens, and thus mobilizing their concerns to create new initiatives to affect change in their respective areas of concern – the neighborhoods of Chicago’s North Side and Transatlantic Relations. There were many lessons Ebony DeBerry could impart: One should always strive to have a voice in the debate, to organize with other people with common goals in order to jointly work for change and hence being the change one would like to see.
Chief Art Acevedo
As a police chief, Art Acevedo might not appear to be the most ideal speaker to discuss transatlantic endeavors. However, as Houston’s first Latino police chief and a leading figure in the fight to halt SB4, the Texas anti-sanctuary cities law, Chief Acevedo is precisely the man to speak with when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion. Chief Acevedo, a very passionate but at times rough speaker, stunned with simple, but remarkable phrases that expressed that we need to re-think how we deal with diversity and what we mean when using the term inclusion. “Do unto others as you would have them done unto you” is a wrong phrase, Acevedo said. Instead, it should be “Do unto others as they would have you done unto them.” More than illustrating a new way of thinking and mapping diversity and inclusion, Acevedo gave us a hands-on lesson on how to deal with communities that are different from ourselves; particularly how to engage them and include them, thus enabling them to become leaders of their causes themselves. During our meeting, the Chief used the whiteboard to visualize his motto: TREAT, standing for Transparent, Respect, Engage, Accountable, Trust. Having learned about the great results he achieved in his short period as Houston’s police chief, it is our job now, to utilize TREAT for our transatlantic promotion of diversity as the new primer. When political discussions, social movements, and economic challenges are made transparent and accessible for every citizen, once the disparate and opposing viewpoints of the respective transatlantic communities are respected by each other, it is possible to engage communities in an honest and equal manner. Once every stakeholder, every politician, and every businessman is held accountable based on the same standards – the one thing that the transatlantic community is missing the most at our current times will be established: Trust.
Chief Acevedo noted that it might take a long time until TREAT will fully enrapture the city of Houston. It will take an even longer time, until the transatlantic community will act upon this motto. But by inviting more individuals like Mr. Acevedo, and Mrs. DeBerry – who at first glance do not seem to be the most suitable person to speak to on behalf of transatlantic endeavors -, promoting diversity and inclusion will become an undertaking both feasible and fruitful.