This post comes from one of our Austin Common community partners, The City of Austin Office of Sustainability. The Office of Sustainability is the city department that works on issues related to climate change, food policy, and green business.
The Office of Sustainability wants to acknowledge the lives of Mike Ramos, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and countless others killed and devastated by white supremacy and police violence. We see Black people who are raising their voices in the streets to demand justice and stand with them. In the midst of a global pandemic, these tragic acts of police violence amplify and highlight the fact that Black communities face the injustices of systemic racism that are ingrained in every level of our society. We respect and honor the sadness, grief, fear, rage and frustration that Black people and Black communities are feeling through their lived experience.
In our role as City staff working within these institutions, and in our personal lives, we frequently build, shape and perpetuate a culture that is inherently racist. We also know that environmental and other policies in our city have had negative consequences on communities of color. We must acknowledge this systematic harm and neglect, and are committed to actively working to right these wrongs. We are also aware that our field — and our office — is predominately white. We have a lot of work to do in order to be a good reflection of the diverse community we support. In acknowledgment of this, our office made a commitment to undoing racism and addressing our weaknesses through equity action. As part of our Equity Action Plan, developed through the leadership of Austin’s Equity Office, we have committed to:
Requiring all staff to participate in anti-racist training (i.e., Undoing Racism) and ensuring that new employees receive training and resources about our Office’s commitment to racial equity.
Being intentional about hiring and working with more Black, Indigenous and people of color through our recruitment and contracting process.
Providing focused outreach to racially and economically diverse K-12 schools through our Bright Green Future Grant Program, and awarding more grants to underrepresented schools through the judging process.
Strengthening our relationships through open dialogue with community partners led by people of color.
Creating a process for collecting and reporting demographic and client satisfaction data for our programs, and using it to improve equitable outcomes through program design.
Sharing more stories and perspectives from Black voices on climate change and environmental justice issues using our social media and other communication channels.
We will continue to support these actions and conversations by doing the work to become better allies and collaborators. Doing this work and building relationships with community members means we also need to build accountability, and we will continue to check in on our progress and acknowledge when we make mistakes. People of color, specifically Black people, are not obligated to share their experience or demands, but we are open to listening and doing our part wherever we can. Black lives matter — now and always.
The Office of Sustainability