The Paducah Diversity Advisory Board is still in its early days, but the founders are excited about what it can accomplish within the community.
It’s a 13-member advisory board with seven priority areas: public engagement, city practices, housing and livability, public safety, economic empowerment, community building and inclusion, and city strategy.
The first meeting took place in late May. The group plans to meet monthly and hold future meetings at Washington Street Baptist Church, said Dorothea Davis, of Paducah, the advisory board’s co-founder.
“Our mission is to promote ethical diversity, and ethical diversity in terms of inclusion and in terms of minorities, in particular,” she told The Sun.
“So, when we say minorities, our real focus first is really on the African American community, but we believe in and know and understand what intersectionality is. We understand that if we can resolve issues within the African American sphere, that we can resolve issues within a lot of the other spheres that intersect with the same kinds of issues that we are faced with.”
She said the board wants to help all people.
“It’s not just about African Americans, but that’s certainly is where a lot of our disparities are in our community, so we want to definitely address those disparities with that framework in mind,” she added.
Co-founder Donald Overstreet, who works for Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, said residents are “more than welcome” to reach out to the advisory board and share ideas or things they think needs to be changed.
“Me and Ms. Dorothea, we basically selected people within the community that had the same ideology that we have, as far as loving Paducah and wanting change, you know, and actually wanting to have an honest conversation and be truthful and talk about the differences,” he said.
The advisory board is not directly connected to the city of Paducah, but will communicate with city leaders. Back in March, the Paducah City Commission also adopted minority inclusion as one of its top 12 priorities. The objective is for “intentional minority inclusion in city government, committees and board.”
“It’s really just what it says it is,” Mayor George Bray said.
“It’s an advisory board, so the city doesn’t have to do things that are recommended necessarily, but as an advisory board, it gives us input and allows them to provide some influence on decisions that are being made.”
Bray said one thing he wants to accomplish as mayor is “continue and really accelerate” the conversation about race and diversity within the city.
“But in order to do that, I felt like I needed to have a group of people who were sitting down and talking about it and giving the city and the commission input on things that are going on (such as hiring, diversity on boards, etc.).
“I mean, there’s any number of areas where the city influences the opportunity for minorities to be included in the conversation. I think that’s really an important concept — that minorities need to be included in the conversation, and need to be able to help shape outcomes as well,” he said.
The 13 advisory board members are: Shonda Burrus, Dorothea Davis, Nicholas Holland, Niaz Khadem, Dorisbel Martinez, Josh Morehead, Winfred Nunn, Donald Overstreet, Nancy Powless, Teresa Spann, Dujuan Thomas, Amina Watkins and Andiamo White.
“We have people who are represented across the city, who are representative of different areas of the community, so we feel really good about our board,” Davis said.
“And we believe it’s going to be a really good group of people who are going to help bring leadership in the area of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion).”
City Commissioner Raynarldo Henderson is also involved with the new advisory board, but not as an official board member. He’s “very optimistic” about it. Henderson and Bray attended the first meeting.
“We talk often about inclusion, but this board puts some feet to all of this, so diversity and inclusion are not just buzz words,” Henderson said.
“They’re not just popular words to use around the community, but this committee will put some feet to all of this. It will make us even more intentional about how we do things, who we include, who we invite to the table, who we’re speaking for. Make us more intentional in doing that.”
As for what’s next, Davis said the advisory board is at the beginning of “getting to know each other” and doing activities.
“We’re going to go through our own DEI training,” she added.
“We’re going to go through that, so that we can also influence and encourage others within the city to go through it. We’ve got some really great things on the horizon, and we’re really looking forward to what this group is going to have to offer our community.”