We’re excited to introduce you to some of the incredible DEI training facilitators that are part of the SGO team. We asked them to share what sparked their passion for this work, what DEI means to them, and why they do what they do. Meet Erika Powell!
What does DEI mean to you?
It means that we all are treated with dignity, respect, fairness, and justly regardless of our differences. It means that we can all exist in this world equally, that our differences don’t bar us from having access to basic human rights or prevent us from advancing in the ways that are important to our individual and collective success.
How do you come to this work? How did you learn it was necessary, and how did you get involved?
In college, I took my first Cultural Anthropology class. So, that’s when my work in this field began. I loved learning about how people “people” and learning about other cultures as well as cultures within cultures. Despite protests from my dad to major in something that would get me a “real job”, I wound up majoring in it and then branched out to the field of Intercultural communication for my masters degree.
My lived experience always taught me that I had to go beyond just studying cultures and that work around justice and equity was necessary in order for me to feel satisfied creatively and professionally. In fact, it’s not uncommon to catch me geeking out on a bench somewhere just observing the crowd, thinking about how and why people connect or disconnect from each other, and coming up with exercises in my head to help bridge differences and create a more inclusive world.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for teams when beginning DEI work, and how can they overcome it?
The biggest challenges that I see in the teams and organizations that I work with is that they try to solve DEI challenges strictly with their intellect and analytical selves and that they think it’s a one and done. I firmly believe that in order to do transformative DEI work we must connect with more than just our minds. We must connect with our hearts, our emotions, and our spirits. To overcome this, it’s necessary to deeply connect to and explore our shared humanity. Training is just the first step in a much larger journey.
What’s the most fulfilling experience you’ve had while doing this work?
I am always fascinated and fulfilled when we make the invisible “visible” through this work. Whether it’s because of sharing or an engaging activity, when participants can begin to see options that exist outside of their conditioning and are able to make new choices that foster equity and inclusion, my heart is warmed.
What have you learned through your experiences in facilitating?
I’ve learned that this work is truly developmental and we are all at different starting points and awareness levels based on our lived experiences and ability to see & experience the world from another person’s perspective. The thing that most surprises me is just how deeply we must face, meet, and unlock aspects of our selves and identities in order to meet that in others and to truly bring forth something new in our society.
What are some of your favorite resources related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and why?
My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem is one my top picks. I LOVE how it addresses the complexity of racial trauma and provides concrete strategies for healing this legacy at its core within our bodies. Sisters of the Yam by bell hooks is another one that my bookshelf can’t live without. Both Menakem and hooks focus on healing and tie the emotional, spiritual, and systemic aspects of DEI so masterfully and in ways that our so fitting for the challenges of our time.
Learn more about the SGO team and our diversity, equity, and inclusion training offerings.
Now that you know more about our facilitators, learn more about working with us!