Equality Shouldn’t be Complicated
A few days ago, I had a conversation with a colleague about an issue brewing within a small non-profit for which we both volunteer. It was a frank and candid conversation between friends where we were lamenting the lack of progress on the issue, as we both thought there was an obvious solution at hand. We were just the only ones who realized it. As we wrapped up the call she commented that while the solution may be apparent to us, we have to “meet people where they are, not where we want them to be.” Did I mention she’s brilliant?
Like many of you, I consider myself very fortunate to have a strong network of friends, family, and trusted colleagues, including Arboreta Group’s own Janedra Sykes that I count on for support and sage advice. As the executive director of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, home of the historic National Woman’s Party in Washington D.C., my network is invaluable every day, but especially now as we plan for the centennial of Suffrage and the 19th Amendment which is August 26, 2020.
You may know that the women’s movement in America began in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convened the first official Women’s Rights Convention. One of the most important documents in our national history, the Declaration of Sentiments outlining the 12 fundamental rights, privileges, and obligations for women, including suffrage, was an outcome of that pivotal conference.
My fellow history geeks will agree with me when I say there’s little I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall listening to the passionate voices of both women and men, including Frederick Douglass, that rang out arguing for women’s rights! While it seemed like the women’s movement was off and running, it would still take another 72 years before women had the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. You’d be right to ask, “What took so long?” and for brevity sake I’ll give a simple answer. It was complicated.
Having worked in the non-profit field now for over 20 years, I’ve often seen issues that should fall into the no-brainer category, get delayed, sidetracked, or totally annihilated for no substantive reason. You’ve probably seen it too. Bringing about a positive and lasting change to any organization or community, even when it is seemingly unchallenged, is just complicated. So, I’m going to take my friend’s advice in both my professional capacity, and as a volunteer, and start where people are, not where I want them to be. I just hope it doesn’t take 72 years!
by Page Harrington
University of San Diego, M.A Public History class of 2000
University of San Diego, M.A. Non-Profit Management class of 2005