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Committing to Equity, Inside and Out

Honoring different cultures in Seattle has become a driving principle of program and event design for Friends of Waterfront Seattle. Credit: Adam Lu, Friends of Waterfront Seattle.

Successful equity-based work depends on serious inner reflection—and Friends of Waterfront Seattle has taken a deep look into the mirror. 

As the manager of a future 20-acre green space along Seattle’s downtown shoreline, Friends’ honest self-assessment has led to changes in hiring and accountability to staff. Instead of conventional cover letters, they invite job applicants to share what Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) means to them. Staff can join a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) caucus or a white caucus. There’s a biweekly DEI book club and monthly all-staff DEI training, where they discuss everything from self-care to preventing burnout. 

The effort to diversify the staff hasn’t gone unnoticed. According to Friends, community partners—including elder indigenous tribal leaders—said they noticed the shift in representation. 

The organization has also added land acknowledgement and public equity statements to their website and across all their public-facing communications. The latter is: “Friends of Waterfront Seattle (Friends) recognizes and acknowledges historic and existing systemic racism embedded in our city. Friends is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization by prioritizing racial equity inside the organization and the public spaces we operate. Our goal is to continually cultivate inclusive spaces where all people—specifically Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as well as underserved communities—are invited and welcome to enjoy Waterfront Park.”

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