Why J.E.D.I. Heart?

Photo of a sunset that inspires part of this blog’s logo.

Photo of a sunset that inspires part of this blog’s logo.

Thank you for reading my first blog post and being incredibly supportive. Your receptivity and gratitude are more than I could ever imagine. If you find value in these blog posts and know of others that may benefit, please share far and wide (and with love).

This week I am providing background and context for the blog. Since I am a big fan of Simon Sinek’s Start with Why—which will be the topic of a future blog post—I would like to share why I created J.E.D.I. Heart, including why I chose the name and the meaning of the logo.

The overarching reason why I created this blog is simple: to support you and the ever-growing number of J.E.D.I. change agents in the environmental movement, especially those of you who are shaking up the pervasive white dominant culture and co-creating a racial and ethnic J.E.D.I. culture. Through blog posts, I will share concepts, approaches, tools, resources, and ideas that have been helpful to me as I navigated my own 20 year J.E.D.I. journey. My hope is to learn as much from you as you do from me. I expect the blog to evolve as we learn from each other and push our collective thinking (and as I continue to learn and grow as a blogger). You are the change agents, the J.E.D.I.s, that are actively creating a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive environmental movement. Our movement is already so much better because of you. Thank you!  

Here are the four reasons why I created a blog for J.E.D.I.s (beginner to advanced change agents who are actively advancing J.E.D.I. in their spheres of influence):

1.    A rare dedicated space for J.E.D.I.s in the environmental movement. In 2017, I noticed for the previous decade many articles, reports and written material about J.E.D.I. in the mainstream environmental movement (broadly defined) focused on the overwhelmingly white representation and the importance of increasing racial and ethnic diversity. While these topics are important to convince people to start taking J.E.D.I. action, they are not particularly helpful for people who are already committed, understand the why of J.E.D.I., and are actively working to advance J.E.D.I. Regularly written material to support J.E.D.I.s who are in the middle stages of this work and struggling with “the how” is not readily available. Today, thousands of people and organizations are working at the nexus of protecting the planet and people of color, and my hope is to provide some of the support they seek and need to be successful.

In addition, when helping and coaching J.E.D.I.s, I often hear about the same roadblocks and stories of the same “rookie” mistakes, such as jumping from awareness to action without building skills and capacity to be effective at J.E.D.I. and not effectively practicing the values of equity and inclusion when doing J.E.D.I. work. This blog is a platform to more broadly share those lessons learned, especially to avoid the rookie mistakes, and to support you all in your J.E.D.I. journeys. Mistakes in this arena have a higher negative impact on people of color (unfortunately, the opposite effect of the good intent), and the environmental movement must cut down on those mistakes considerably, especially since we have a horrendous track record.  

2.    A home for collective J.E.D.I. wisdom. Navigating J.E.D.I. is complex and no one approach fits all. If there was a panacea, we would have discovered it by now. My goal is to share lessons learned and to pass on the wisdom I have gained over the years by providing approaches, tips, tools, and ideas that have worked for me and others in the J.E.D.I. space. However, I do not have all the answers (and never will), which is why I hope this blog will be a place to explore, learn from each other, engage in critical discussions, and draw from the collective wisdom of the community. In the comments section of each blog post, you are strongly invited to share what has worked for you, not worked, where you have been stuck, and/or how you became unstuck. Please share stories, add a perspective, and pose questions if you desire. We will all benefit from your valuable voice.

3.    J.E.D.I. on a regular basis. For many mainstream environmental organizations and leaders, J.E.D.I. is treated as a separate effort, or a “side project,” that is not yet fully integrated into the culture, policies, and practices of the organization. Therefore, competing interests, “business as usual” activities, and the forces of white dominant culture may take us away from J.E.D.I. This blog will help us keep J.E.D.I. front and center because it will be published regularly and serve as a reminder to keep focused on this important work.

4.    The love aspect of J.E.D.I. Love is the only approach that has worked 100% of the time for me. In this work, love often comes in the form of seeing others, especially in their struggles and hopes. For me, love is about seeing the heart of the other person, touching and validating their humanity, no matter who they are, whether they are a person of color or white, an ally or an enemy, someone who loves me or hates me, or anywhere in between. I know there are people for whom I struggle to have compassion, especially people who have hurt me. In these situations, I utilize agape love—selfless, unconditional love—which is the toughest form of love for me. This type of love is given even, and especially, when it is undeserved. I need to remind myself that the person I have difficulty loving has a heart and despite the hard exterior—the tough, heady facade they are portraying to the world—they too, are human and need to be seen. I have learned that when I first see another's humanity, then they too can see mine, which I have found to be a core ingredient for effectively working across difference.   

Another beautiful aspect of love is that it is an infinite resource. We can use it as much as we want, and it will never run out. Also, love is the antidote to hate, and the world really needs love right now—a lot of it.

Why the blog title, “J.E.D.I Heart”?

While “heart” simply symbolizes love, the term, J.E.D.I. (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) came to me in 2016 when I was working with the newly formed Healthy Environment Portfolio at Meyer Memorial Trust (an Oregon-based private foundation). J.E.D.I. is a term that encapsulates the foundational, internal and external work that needs to happen on an individual and organizational level to create an environmental movement that effectively speaks to, listens to, invites, and validates people from all races and ethnicities. In Spring 2016, I was tasked to organize a gathering of Oregon leaders who had experience in environmental justice (EJ) and/or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the mainstream environmental movement. The Healthy Environment Portfolio included two goals—an environmental justice goal and a diversifying the mainstream environmental movement goal—and we sought feedback from experienced community members to guide our activities beyond grantmaking that could positively support Oregon’s environmental movement. As I thought of a title, I tried to combine environmental justice (EJ) with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The words strung together were too long for a title, so I thought of creating an acronym. Since the gathering was for environmentalists, I figured I could eliminate one of the “E”s, which left me with JDEI. Re-ordering the letters, I came up with J.E.D.I. (to some of my colleagues’ excitement and to others’ dismay: “You’re welcome”, and “I’m sorry”). The final gathering title was J.E.D.I. in Oregon’s Environmental Movement, held on August 15, 2016. One participant ended up renaming their DEI committee to the J.E.D.I. Council. The first time I used the acronym in a keynote speech was in May 2017 at the Oregon CONNECT Conference in Pendleton, Oregon. The talk was entitled, “Dancing with J.E.D.I.”

The J.E.D.I. Heart logo in name and design connects to the purpose for this blog.

The J.E.D.I. Heart logo in name and design connects to the purpose for this blog.

About the J.E.D.I. Heart logo

The heart represents love.   

The stars that connect the lines in the heart refer to navigation as in navigating justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Observing the position of stars was a form of navigation utilized by numerous indigenous cultures from around the world. I am also giving a shout out to indigeneous peoples many whom have lived sustainably with nature for centuries.

The middle star is the North Star that continues to guide my message and work. The North Star also symbolizes freedom as it was used by slaves in the 19th century to navigate their way to freedom.

Lastly the ombre colors provide a double meaning: sunset and sunrise, which denote the evolution of the environmental movement, the cycles of nature, death and birth, constant change and renewing, emptying and filling, and letting go of the old and receiving the new. The sunset is a metaphor of the old way, setting in glory, celebration, and gratitude. The sunrise is a metaphor for the empty night sky being filled by the brilliance, beauty, inspiration, and co-creation of something new and more powerful. Originally, the colors were inspired by the radiant sunsets I would soak in as God deeply supplanted this blog idea into my heart.