Investing in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) By Aja Goode, Equity, Impact and Anti Racism Manager

My name is Aja Goode and I am the Equity, Impact, and Anti Racism Manager. I previously served as a Recruitment Associate at The Literacy Lab for almost two years before assuming my current role. My interest in working with people from different backgrounds was prompted by spending most of my time in school and throughout my life studying different cultures and languages. 

Initially, I thought I could make an impact in the lives of people by working as a diplomat or ambassador for the State Department. After I came to an understanding of the domestic issues harming, threatening, and invalidating the existence of people who look like me, I realized there is so much work to be done at home. Additionally, as a Black, queer woman, the intersectionality of my identity means that I face discrimination and prejudice in very complex ways that make my experience unique in a way that our society is not yet ready to address. We tend to operate in a binary or a “this or that” and almost no one exists that way. This makes me very much interested in finding ways to challenge the system so that not only myself but all marginalized identities can exist in a world that fully acknowledges and accepts the unique experiences and identities that we have to offer.

I truly believe that as an organization, we can challenge and disrupt white supremacy culture in our workstreams and practices. The best thing about coming into this role is that I’m not alone in doing the work. We have a great team of folks that are just as committed as I am. I’m here to center our efforts and be a resource for the organization but this is truly a collective effort and I’m thankful to work alongside a team that values equity and anti-racism just as much as I do.

Our Current DEI Priorities

As an organization, we understand that to make the biggest impact on the students and communities we serve, equity and anti-racism need to be at the core of what we do and how we do it. Thus, my biggest goal as the Equity, Impact, and Anti Racism Manager is to ensure that every facet of our work including our programs, funding, daily practices, policies, and interactions are rooted in equity and anti-racism.

Currently, I have been working with our CEO, Heather Jenkins on an organization-wide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism assessment. This assessment has two parts, the first being a survey and the second being focus groups. The purpose of this two part assessment is to gather quantitative and qualitative data to inform our understanding of what we’re doing well in regards to DEI and what areas we still need improvement on. Additionally, we have implemented monthly DEI professional development sessions for all staff. These sessions allow staff to come together to talk through various DEI topics, be self-reflective in their experiences, and have the opportunity to practice embedding equity and anti-racism into their work. As we move into strategic planning in February, DEI will be centered in every aspect of that process. By the end of that process, we will have a better understanding of our short term and long term goals around DEI and anti-racism in our work.