Beth Austin, President

Message from AAWE President

Diversity Together

As overseas Americans, we are far away from the 24/7 coverage of the protests in the U.S around Black Lives Matter, and missing out on the face-to-face discussions with American family, friends, and co-workers on this issue.  For each of us in our own way, the recent events that started with George Floyd’s murder may be more difficult to process at a distance. For those who would have liked to, we are unable to join the ranks of protesters in person in the U.S., and doing so in France may just not feel the same way or serve the same need. Of course, we do have our ballots as a tool and our French families and friends can listen to us. Yet, more than ever, AAWE members have been using each other as a sounding board and a fount of useful resources — sisters helping each other once again. We have been talking to one another, admitting to our lack of knowledge, and anxiety, expressing our desire to contribute and help, as well as exchanging links toward helpful information on racial injustice.

So what can we each do as individuals?

We can listen to the stories / experiences / needs of people of color / LGBTQ+ / minorities without judgment. We can continue to discuss racial injustice with our partners, children, and friends. We can continue to read as much as we can to be better informed and watch various media to further our own education. We can share these resources in the communities of which we are part.

What will I do personally as Beth?

While talking about diversity and inclusion may feel uncomfortable at first, I will use my discomfort as a driver to create positive change around me. I must be personally open to change.

What are we doing as a club?

We are:

  • planning an open forum Zoom evening event called “Sharing Perspectives” within AAWE;
  • organizing a Zoom evening presentation on June 24th at 6 pm, hosted by a member’s sister who is a Unitarian minister: “An Introduction to Rewiring your Racial Consciousness — Rewire”;
  • continuing to have discussions on these issues within AAWE’s BBX Sisterhood sub-group and other AAWE sub-groups.

What could we do as a club?

(The following points are suggestions.) We could:

  • create a “Diversity and Inclusion” committee and/or appoint a board position to promote and implement measures oriented towards the inclusion of all current and future members, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status/class, and ability. Many non-profits are heading in this direction.
  • rethink our Mission statement and our Membership website pages to reflect these important changes that we need to make as we go forward.
  • capture statements from members about social justice, diversity, and inclusion, and share them on our website and social media.
  • team up on Zoom presentations with other English-speaking clubs in France (possibly a Message event on the “color-blind” myth in France)
  • share relevant articles, such as INSPIRELLE’s on black businesses in Paris, on our public and private Facebook and other social media outlets.
  • share resources amongst ourselves, and share what we learn through regular membership meetings.
  • encourage our book clubs and all members to read literature on racial injustice, diversity, and inclusivity.

What should we do as a club?

Considering the ever-changing current social and political context in the U.S., this is an opportune moment for us all to reflect on our membership pool and what we can do going forward to make our organization a more diverse and welcoming place, not just for women of color, but for all. Just as AAWE has supported women and children in our local and global communities for years, this is a new occasion for us to be allies and supporters of social justice and change, and for AAWE to be a safe haven for all. I do believe our founder, Phyllis Michaux, would be proud of us being “Ambassadors” on this advocacy issue.

I would encourage us all to reach out to each other with our thoughts. In these times, it is so important for us to support and rely on one another.

Warm regards,

Beth Austin, President