Minority Voices Matter: Speak Up, Engage and Change Your Community

Do you know what’s going on in your community right now? Any idea who your local government officials are, and what their current initiatives are for the growth of your neighborhood?

There’s a known disparity in the amount of talk, talk, talk that we indulge in on a regular basis, whether that be rants online about the lack of love given to our community pool, parks or libraries, or talk amongst ourselves in the comforts of our own homes regarding what WE believe should change in order to provide a brighter future for the areas we hold close to our hearts. But as minorities, we do have an opportunity (and responsibility) to our community by speaking up, making our voices heard and being a part of the change that comes with it.

Why Community Engagement Matters

According to the Austrailian Institute of Family Studies, community engagement is a way of ensuring that community members have access to valued social settings and activities, feel that they are able to contribute meaningfully to those activities, and develop functional capabilities that enable them to participate fully. What this highlights is accountability – being involved in the things that impact your community ensure that you’re in the loop with the progress, no longer looking from the outside in, or picking up crumbs of information that fall from the table. If we want inclusion, we have to show up! When a seat at that table opens up for a minority voice to be heard, we sit and speak up, especially considering more often than not, minority voices are overlooked.

As history shows, minority populations lack trust in government officials for many reasons including strong track record of discrimination. So it’s no surprise that you can’t just walk into a community with a name badge and a smile and expect everyone to trust your intentions right off the bat. Mayra Serrano, Manager of City of Hope’s Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education shares that, “mistrust is common among minorities, especially immigrant and undocumented populations, who rarely want to share any information at all.”

Gaining the trust of minorities in certain communities is about consistency. It may take a while and a lot of research, but putting in the work to truly understand why mistrust exists, will surely pay off in the long run. And if you are in a position of power in your community, but not specifically a part of an organization or board, this is your chance to be the representative that builds that bridge between the higher ups and the people these initiatives are actually impacting.

 Why Your Minority Voice Matters

The absence of diverse voices diminishes the engagement of the public in civic affairs. Basically, there needs to be diversity on the other side. Because who better to advocate for people of color, immigrants, LGBTQIA+, etc. than someone who knows first hand what it is that we need, want and demand? Lending a minority voice to organizations looking to build rapport can help them understand and see an accurate reflection of the community they serve, while shifting away from the exaggerated negative associations the media spins.

Think about it: A consistent voice of the community, one that is tapped into city council meetings, church gatherings, community events, etc. has a real opportunity to help diversify government initiatives, providing insight on future marketing campaigns across platforms that best resonate with the demographic. And by creating this space for us, by us, we can expand the capacity for involvement, and ultimately strengthen connections that could lead to a minority leader to continue the fight to be heard.

Do you have what it takes to be a leader in your community? Are you ready to take on this role with pride and confidence that you can actually make a difference? If there is something to be said on behalf of the community, then there is someone higher up that needs to hear. And by speaking up and making your voices heard, you’re driving a cultural shift unlike anything we’ve seen before.