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Manhattan Beach Chamber Event Puts Spotlight on Unity

Feb 01, 2021 12:07PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
An event this week sponsored by the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce aims to be a catalyst for unity through conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

"Unity in the Community," a Zoom event to be held on February 4 at 1:00 p.m., is set to offer thought-provoking discussions with global and local leaders on how they have created change in their community.

The panelists include Olivia V.G. Clarke, a student, leader, activist and author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, '"Black Girl, White School: Thriving, Surviving and No, You Can't Touch My Hair;" Cobi Jones, legendary former L.A. Galaxy player/coach and current sports broadcaster; Jen Fenton, president of the MBUSD school board; and Tanya Monaghan, deputy editor of Southbay Magazine.

Event organizers are using "UNITY" as an acronym, defined as: U (for unconscious bias awareness), N (for neurodiversity), I (for inclusion), T (for thoughtful conversations), and Y (for youth education and development).

This event represents just one facet of the work of the chamber's recently formed Inclusion Committee, said Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Stroman.

"The Unity event is another part of what the committee has been working on for months... a larger format conversation about the changes that have been made in different sectors: where we were, where we are, and dialogue about how to move forward and make inclusion a comfortable way of life personally and professionally," said Stroman. "The opposite of divide is to unite and to make everyone feel welcome."

The event is free to those who register. Sponsors of the event include Chevron, MBS Media Campus, SoCal Gas, Dignity Health Sports Park, and Kinecta.

Diversity/Inclusion Efforts Ramped Up Since Summer

Many local groups, including the chamber, have focused on diversity and inclusion efforts since the turbulent events of last summer.

"After the death of George Floyd, the chamber quickly started looking within to consider how we could be more inclusive of all populations and how we could help the business community navigate the same," said Stroman. "We formed the Inclusion Committee by July and quickly worked on founding documents including a mission statement and goals. Since then, the 11 members of the committee have met weekly to discuss issues, events, and to host listening calls with local leaders. We have all learned a lot."

Fenton, the MBUSD board president, described a similar effort within the board to address diversity and inclusion at the school district level. 

"This summer, there was a renewed call to action throughout our community, as we witnessed racial injustice and subsequent national protests. While MBUSD has taken steps to stop discrimination, harassment and inequity in our district, we recognized that more action needed to be done," said Fenton. 

The board recently expanded its "Climate of Care" goal to specifically address equity, diversity, social justice and inclusion (EDSJI).

"We know that institutional change does not occur overnight, but there is an unrelenting commitment to do the analysis and self-reflection required to transform our district," said Fenton. "Our newly formed EDSJI Committee, which has close to 40 members, will help guide the board on policy decisions, curriculum changes, and anti-bias/anti-discrimination trainings in an effort to address systemic barriers in MBUSD."

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