‘Shape a new narrative’ — Nonprofit UCS of JoCo unveils action plan for addressing racial inequities

United Community Services of Johnson County has developed a Theory of Action to address racial equity and inclusion within the nonprofit and in the greater community. Above, a march and rally in June in Prairie Village to support Black lives. File photo.

United Community Services of Johnson County has developed an action plan for addressing racial inequities within the nonprofit and in the greater Johnson County community.

UCS of Johnson County is now set to host a series of public information sessions on what officials are calling a “Racial Equity and Inclusion Theory of Action,” an initiative comprising a list of goals and objectives to achieve racial equity; principles by which the nonprofit can achieve those goals; and actionable steps to launch in coming months.

“The changing demographics of Johnson County indicate that diversity is inevitable, yet the social unrest of the past several months tells us that change is difficult,” the nonprofit wrote on its website about this initiative.

“By equipping ourselves with knowledge and connecting with others, we can overcome those challenges to co-create a healthier, more diverse, and thriving Johnson County community for all people.”

Here is a copy of the United Community Services of Johnson County’s Racial Equity and Inclusion Theory of Action:

And here’s a graphic showing Johnson County’s current racial demographics:

‘To understand where we’ve been’

Kathryn Evans with UCS of Johnson County, who led the information session on Wednesday, shared more about the six-month process to develop the plan. Evans said the work tacks onto the nonprofit’s overall mission of education and advocacy, particularly by increasing the community’s knowledge of Johnson County’s history of systemic racism and by “promoting a more unified narrative of our community.”

“We believe that we have to understand where we’ve been in order to understand how we shape a more just and equitable future,” said Kathryn Evans with United Community Services of Johnson County.

“We believe that we have to understand where we’ve been in order to understand how we shape a more just and equitable future,” Evans said. “By sharing what we know about our history and information about how we got here, we hope that we can shape that new narrative that will really inform us and encourage us to continue to work as a community.

“As a result of this work, the ultimate impact that we hope to see is that the Johnson County community will understand the history and impacts of systemic racism and will consciously prioritize initiatives that promote diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.”

Citing “a vast and growing body of research” that shows racism to be a “key determinant” to health outcomes of a community, Evans said racism leads to health disparities and unfair distribution of needs such as education, employment and attainable housing.

“That is why we at UCS have come alongside many health experts across our nation and have come to regard racism as a major barrier to health equity and a social determinant of health,” Evans said, citing Johnson County’s growing racial diversity.

“In the midst of calls from across our nation for systemic change, we have to be thoughtful about planning now to ensure that current and future Johnson County residents of all races are able to attain housing, pursue employment opportunity, access education and, most importantly, feel included, connected, healthy and well in their communities.”