compiled by Ardis Bazyn, ACB Membership Chair
The latest ACB Membership Focus call took a look at “How can we expand our recruiting efforts to minority communities?” The Multicultural Affairs Committee presented a discussion of “Tips for Recruiting People of Color.” Peggy Garrett introduced the panel topic.
Pamela Metz suggested current members listen to each person they meet. You can ask about their ethnicity, how they lost their sight, what they are looking for in the organization, their background, their children, and other interests. After the conversation, embrace them. Ask what they would like to do, such as mentor others. Ask them to invite other new people and find out what they might bring to the chapter or organization.
Sandra Sermons suggested thinking about how to use current resources to reach new people. Reach out to colleges’ and universities’ disability services centers. Drop off blindness support information at those offices, and include your local chapter contact information. Sometimes there are specific ethnic group organizations at major universities, like Black Student Alliance. Contact them and ask them to attend one of your meetings. Sororities and fraternities may have blind member services. You can ask Peggy or Sandra for names of those groups. Reach out to alumni and ask if they know who in their group has a visual impairment. Mention you’d like to introduce yourself so you can familiarize them with ACB and its benefits. It will take time and effort to establish relationships with those organizations.
Donna Pomerantz said there are many ways to reach out to diverse communities. When you meet people, invite them to your local meetings and events. Attend cultural festivals and community events in the local area. Attend Chinese New Year events. In southern California, there is a Brazilian carnival at the Queen Mary. Introduce yourself to those you haven’t met. Some communities have a Blessing of the Animals. Different communities celebrate different special weeks: Japanese festival, Watts Summer Festival, or religious festivals. Some may not feel comfortable in new settings; take a friend to enjoy being out and meet new people.
Regina Brink suggested reaching out via social media. Meet people on Facebook or Twitter and have conversations. You may not be able to control the content. Learn how to de-escalate a bad conversation. Instagram is another site to visit. Check TV and radio (local and national) to find different channels. Most will air PSAs and diverse graphics, videos, and voices. Most are open and feature diverse audiences.
Cheryl Cumings mentioned outreach to churches and religious organizations. Learn about different religious groups in your community. Know the strengths of your affiliate before you contact people. You want to build relationships with organizations, not just send them materials. In addition to what we offer, find out about activities you may already be involved in or how other members may be involved. There is usually no charge to share information in church bulletins or newsletters. Think about your initial contact as a first date. Think about where we want to go once in. Other possibilities are gospel sings and cross-over groups. Set goals and timelines for each goal, such as “contact 5 or 10 potential members within the next year.”
Michael Garrett spoke about reaching out to blindness support groups and senior groups. After participating in the Houston support group, several have joined the chapter. Collaborate on projects and activities with these groups to get your chapter name recognized and meet many with different abilities. Senior centers have many people with vision loss. Share technology and resources and you’ll find many seniors have multiple talents.
Mary Haroyan suggested building relationships with professional organizations and associations. Partner with them by offering ACB and affiliates as resources. If they have a focus on the public good, they may be more interested. Check into minority professional organizations such as the American Association of Equity and Inclusion. They might need blindness resources for employment services. Look into associations such as museums of black history, black psychologists, black women’s physicians, health and welfare organizations, Alliance of Blind School Educators, National Council of Lawyers, Black Data Processing, National Medical Association, and the National Hispanic Association.
Mitch Pomerantz had a sense of why it’s important to emphasize recruiting from minority populations. Many have no knowledge about blindness. Whites will be the minority soon in this country. ACB needs to expand outreach to minorities. Members need to be open and reach out to everyone, particularly to other cultures who have an interest in blindness resources and learning what is available to them. Once they have joined or shown an interest, mentor them to see if they want to be a part of the leadership, and what role they may fill. Take the opportunity to reach out. Say you’d like to partner with them and provide resources to better serve them. Be intentional about asking new members to be on committees. Identify members who don’t look like you. Suggest members visit new organizations, senior centers, guide dog schools, and rehab centers. When you recruit with multiple groups, they will not feel uncomfortable when they get to know us.