Belonging Is More Than a Buzzword: Deepening Our Commitment to Racial Healing and Belonging

By Natalie Williams    January 17, 2023

At the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), we continue our efforts to influence policies and practices that address structural bias and inequity, connect our members to resources, organizations, and best practices to apply a race equity lens, and build capacity within public human services agencies to promote social and economic mobility and health and well-being for all races. This focus requires we deepen our impact on advancing racial equity by committing to continued learning and innovation that move the needle on dismantling systemic racism.

For some, belonging is new in its application to the equity, diversity, and inclusion continuum of practice. It is an exciting concept that brings curiosity and hope as we continue our collective journey toward racial equity. When belonging is described, it is often referred to as a connection with others—the feeling of being seen, heard and valued. This feeling of belonging does not “belong” to specific identities or backgrounds. Belonging is for all of us. It is not an individual initiative but an opportunity for collective impact. This is because belonging is the antidote to limited inclusion and centers individuals as their full selves. It is powerful in helping voices be heard and included and encourages the development of long-term solutions and relationships.

As a cornerstone of well-being for communities, health and human services help shape and support us at key points in our lives, opening opportunities for lifelong success. As leaders in the field, we must understand our role in advancing belonging in our racial equity journey. It is an essential aspect of health and human services; it is key to having an effective impact that addresses the needs of the individual and the community. Our ability to unpack and understand belonging will help us become a system that drives transformation and accelerates essential innovation. As a result, we will have the ability to decrease persistent disparities in outcomes for communities that have been historically marginalized, and we will uncover opportunities that advance upstream efforts helping to tackle complex issues at their root.

Where do we start?

First, we must understand that belonging and racial healing are deeply connected. All of us have been impacted by racism directly or indirectly, resulting in harm and trauma to many. This harm needs to be addressed and rectified.

Second, we must courageously move toward helping to support and actionize racial healing as we develop organizations and communities of belonging.

Today, January 17, we celebrate and observe the National Day of Racial Healing. Launched in 2017, the National Day of Racial Healing is a call to action for racial healing for all people. It originated as part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s national Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation efforts. On this day, we celebrate our common humanity and align around our desires to create a more just and equitable world. Join us as we lift up this opportunity to begin discussions and actions that center racial healing and seed our journey toward belonging.

This year, we have the opportunity to take a quantum leap toward creating a just world for all people. This can be done by becoming proficient in building organizations and communities of belonging as we come together. Join us as we deepen our commitment to racial healing and belonging. As always, thank you for all you do.

About the Author

Natalie Williams (full bio)

Chief Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Officer
American Public Human Services Association

Belonging Is More Than a Buzzword: Deepening Our Commitment to Racial Healing and Belonging

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