diversity equity inclusion, jvc news

JVC Racial Justice Task Force Reformed: Uplifting The Divinity of God's Children

Black Lives Matter Protest in DC, 6/2/2020. (Instagram: @koshuphotography)

Jesuit Volunteer Corps is a community of tens of thousands of people who feel a deep sense of connection through our mission and more specifically our four core values of spirituality, simple living, community and social justice. In our formation program, Jesuit Volunteers commit to 1-2 years of faith formation. As JVC President Tom Chabolla shared at each 2020 JV ReOrientation retreat this year, there is more JVC can do to identify and advance the learning outcomes of volunteer cohorts in the area of racial justice; to train staff and board members to be advocates in this work; and to better equip JVC’s community to lead lives dedicated to anti-racism, and ultimately towards dismantling oppressive structures. 

Our understanding is that anti-racism work is rooted in recognizing and uplifting the divinity in all of God’s children, and at its core, it is truly a commitment to energizing our spirituality in a way that is equitable and just. We acknowledge that anti-racism work is a never-ending process that takes place at the individual level, the community-level and the systems-level.  

We recognize that the Jesuit Volunteer Corps must take action to create a long-term, sustainable anti-racism approach that can embed itself in the roots of our culture, and transform the way we do business. When we build a foundation for the organization that is rooted in continually practicing and examining our efforts towards anti-racism, we are actively committing to building a culture that can genuinely put people first, and we can gradually lead the organization to further address and dismantle any practices which perpetuate harm.  

JVC is committed to transforming our approaches through our ongoing anti-racism work to create a culture of true belonging. We know that this work is not done for the purposes of earning an accolade, rather it is a lifestyle and a culture that we must choose to exemplify through our actions over long periods of time, and through foundational changes that we must make internally.  

This starts with recognizing our history as an organization within a racialized society; making space for healing and reconciliation; as well as co-creating a course of action that we can commit to with confidence and full ownership. JVC must work to live into the Latin concept of cura personalis, also known as care for the entire person because it is imperative to our goal of accompaniment and support throughout JVC’s community. 

JVC’s North Central JVs and management-level staff within the organization spoke in detail this program year about proposed changes and ways to elevate the work that is being done throughout the organization. In the past few weeks, our BIPOC staff members have called upon organizational leadership and JVC’s Board of Directors to let them lead the way with the initial planning, and determine a course of action for our ongoing anti-racism work. JVC believes in uplifting, supporting, empowering, and centering these voices in our work moving forward. We must also recognize that this places an additional workload on these staff persons, and we trust that they will inform us all of how they may need to be resourced moving forward. Our anchor for this work will be the creation of a culture of belonging and of uplifting the voices of those in our community who demand change. 

Our first course of action has been for JVC to re-establish the Racial Justice Task Force (RJTF), which was initially started in 2014. The original statement of intention was as follows: “to facilitate planning and training to promote racial understanding, build deep awareness of the complexity of issues, and anticipate challenges and implications for action that will arise from such a commitment.” The BIPOC staff members involved with racial justice work in the years that have followed were tasked with identifying the members of the 2020 RJTF to ensure it is representative of the organization.  

The RJTF will convene weekly to review, identify, and implement key principles and practices through a recommendation plan. This plan will be based on the resources gathered and curated over the years by current and past staff, Jesuit Volunteers, FJVs, and board members. This recommendation plan will propose how JVC structures future conversations, facilitation, and training for staff on the virtue of racial justice. There has been an introductory budget of ten thousand dollars ($10,000) that will be used this financial year to administer the recommendations of the RJTF. 

While the Racial Justice Task Force helps our staff to move forward in our own understanding of race, power, and privilege, we will simultaneously be working with community leaders to move our JV programming forward. Over the coming weeks and months we hope current JVs, former JVs and staff can work together to assess which demands will be the focus in the short-term and long term and to identify ways to ensure any changes we make are sustainable for the future of JVC.  

We feel a deep sense of responsibility to lay out a sustainable and measurable plan of action in this regard. We thank you for your dedication, support, and for continually centering the work that must be done to fulfill our mission in intentional and faith-first ways. 

To read more about the work that has been done thus far, please go to our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Page. For any questions, opportunities to engage with the Racial Justice Task Force, or interest in funding and supporting this work, please email rjtf@jesuitvolunteers.org