Wilsonville chooses diverse representation for DEI committee
The Wilsonville government recently approved 13 appointments for its diversity, equity and inclusion committee, which will focus on making the city a more inclusive place for all citizens regardless of background. The appointees will serve one-, two- or three-year terms and begin meeting in June.
As was intended, the City Council appointed a diverse set of citizens to the committee after reading through their application materials.
"Determining who to appoint was an incredibly challenging process because we had many more qualified, passionate applicants than we were able to seat," Mayor Julie Fitzgerald said in a press release. "I'm inspired and heartened by my conversations with so many residents who are committed to making Wilsonville a more inclusive community."
Based mostly on the applications each member provided to the city, here's a brief rundown of who the council chose:
Imran Haider ran for Wilsonville City Council last year, finishing fourth in the race for two open spots. He spoke publicly during the campaign about his Pakistani heritage and the discrimination he has faced throughout his life. Haider is also a public speaking professional and minority owner of Ancestry Brewing.
Tracey Hester, a Black man, is a correctional sergeant at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and helped start sessions where locals discussed issues related to race last year. He said he knows what it's like to be viewed differently because of your race and that he would like to see more minority-owned businesses and housing that could attract minority families.
Eugenia Imel is a wheelchair user of 50 years, was appointed to the Oregon Disabilities Commission in 1995 and also hosted the Oregon Disabilities Radio Show on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Imel stressed the importance of educating the community about the inequities certain citizens face.
Landazuri Santiago is an immigrant from Ecuador and specializes in creating programs to integrate a diverse workforce. Specifically, Santiago focuses on how to recruit and retain Hispanic employees. Santiago said setting ground rules to make everyone feel comfortable when discussing issues of bias and inclusion is important.
Camryn Lau is a high school student who strives to highlight Asian voices and other minority groups. Lau has participated in the Female Empowerment Club and the Student Equity Team and is an intern for a start-up that focuses on making advanced placement classes more accessible. Lau noted the distinction between equity and equality, and that creating an equitable environment would provide people what they need to succeed.
Joni McNeill is an operations lead at Apple and recalled being taken in by families of different cultural backgrounds while experiencing poverty. Humility, listening and understanding others and looking at the big picture of the situation are key when dealing with these issues, McNeil wrote. McNeil hopes the committee will perform broad outreach to hear the needs of the whole community.
Erika Pham has facilitated trainings on unconscious bias and other DEI topics, developed a company employee resource group for LGBTQ+ employees and has served on the board of the Skanska Women's Network. Pham wants everyone in Wilsonville to feel safe both physically and psychologically so they can be their authentic selves.
Rudyane Rivera-Lindstrom is the director of DEI for the Higher Education Coordination Commission and works on dismantling barriers to educational attainment. To Rivera-Lindstrom, equity means equal access to resources, education and economic opportunities.
Sudeep Taksali is a South Asian American and said as an orthopedic surgeon they experience microaggressions. Taksali said using "I" statements to remove judgment from conversations is useful and that they're troubled by what they see on Wilsonville social media forums when it comes to these issues.
Jay Edwards, a financial advisor, is a member of the Wilsonville Alliance for Inclusive Communities — a group that recently helped lead an initiative to reduce gaps in COVID-19 vaccinations. Edwards said that many issues are rooted in financial inequities and suggested the city serve as a hub for minority- and women-owned businesses. Edwards hoped the DEI committee would assist in vaccination efforts.
Malak ElManhawy, a Wilsonville High School sophomore, has volunteered with Oregon social services and helped organize an event helping homeless Portlanders. ElManhawy hoped the city would have more recognition and celebrations of diverse holidays and discussions about issues related to diversity and equity.
Luis Gonzales has performed outreach for the Kiwanis International Fun Run in Wilsonville and served on the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Student Diversity Budget board at Oregon State University. Gonzales believes a DEI-friendly community involves embracing perspectives from around the world and recognizing how history has impacted different communities. Gonzales said it's not about blaming or shaming, but learning and growing.
Fay Gyapong-Porter, a Black woman and dentist, wants Wilsonville to embrace diversity while maintaining a safe environment. Gyapong-Porter also would like people of color to be encouraged to participate in activities like art, equestrian and STEM (science technology, engineering and math).
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