Minute With the Board

by Hailey M. Mangrum, AFA Board member, with remarks from Dr. Cecilia Suarez, AFA Shirley-Jefferson Fellow for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access

I take immense pride in our association’s commitment to prioritizing the experiences of our members and those we serve by anchoring our work in principles of equity and inclusion during a time where it’s disheartening to witness numerous organizations across the country sidelining or discarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Let me emphasize: we have made significant strides and there is still much ground to cover and many layers to unpack. We recognize our pursuit of genuine inclusivity is an ongoing journey. Yet, our dedication to upholding our strategic plan, ensuring a sense of community for our members, addressing and mitigating biases, and embedding equity into the very essence of our industry, remains steadfast and paramount for both the Board of Directors and our Association.

One year ago this month, the association introduced a new initiative to advance equity and inclusion efforts. With the generous financial support and partnership from Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., the Shirley-Jefferson Fellow serves as AFA’s diversity, equity, and inclusion ‘expert in residence’. Named in honor of long-time AFA members and Phi Beta Sigma fraternity leaders, Dr. Zach Shirley and Chris Jefferson, our Shirley-Jefferson Fellow has provided strategic and operational guidance and cooperative expertise for AFA as it strengthens its resolve towards building a more equitable and inclusive association.

I am incredibly inspired by the impactful work accomplished under the strategic guidance of Dr. Cecilia Suarez during her tenure as the inaugural Shirley-Jefferson Fellow for the association. Here are some of the insightful remarks:

I am honored to call upon our dedicated community to reaffirm and deepen our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within fraternity and sorority life. Together, we have the power to create lasting change and foster environments where every individual feels valued, celebrated, and respected.

I am thrilled to share some exciting updates that highlight AFA’s steadfast commitment to DEI:

  • Introducing Community Collectives (CCs): We have established identity-focused spaces for celebration and fellowship within our community. The three inaugural CCs are the Black Diaspora Community Collective, the Latinx/a/o Community Collective, and the Single-Operations Professional Community Collective. Keep an eye out for opportunities to engage with these CCs before and during our 2024 Annual Meeting!
  • Revamped Annual Awards Application: We have updated our annual awards application process to emphasize the importance of equity and inclusion in celebrating our community members. This change reflects our dedication to recognizing and uplifting the diverse contributions within our organization.

In the coming months, our efforts will focus on creating opportunities for development and education around DEI foundational knowledge, advanced EDI education on the nuances experienced in our communities, and the daily praxis of EDI. Our work in DEI is not just an initiative—it’s a core value that shapes our actions, policies, and interactions.

I urge each of you to continue championing DEI by:

  • Educating ourselves and others
  • Creating inclusive spaces
  • Advocating for change

Your commitment and passion are the driving forces behind our progress. Let us continue to lead by example, demonstrating that fraternity and sorority life can and should be a beacon of inclusion and equity.

Together, we can make a difference. Thank you for your dedication to this vital work.

In solidarity,

Dr. Cecilia E. Suarez

AFA continues to focus on building and nurturing meaningful, professional communities that provide our members with enhanced opportunities to engage with ideas and perspectives beyond their own within an environment that is inclusive of their experience while also supporting their work. We are proud of the efforts that have been made to strengthen networking platforms, facilitate knowledge sharing, and foster collaborations that empower our members to thrive professionally and personally. 

The time is now for us to depend on allies who prioritize the necessary work over personal recognition, focusing on the essential tasks at hand. It is crucial that we hold one another accountable in our shared mission and rise to the occasion when it comes to prioritizing the inclusion of our members and stakeholders. The actions we take today, consciously and deliberately, in the realm of equity and inclusion, will shape the future of our association and the communities we strive to create. The association needs everyone, unwavering in our commitment together, as we navigate this critical juncture that will define our collective impact and legacy.

Career Center

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