Meeting in Review: April 1, 2015
Posted by Haleh Vaziri
Salaam fellow Rotarians! I am happy to be back from Detroit to report on our 1 April 2015 meeting. First, though, I wish to thank Red Badge member Johnny Allem for writing the Meeting in Review and Mike Carmichael for acting as Secretary in my absence last week.
President Jennifer called us to order at 12:30 PM, leading members in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She asked Christian Lungarotti to offer words of inspiration. He invoked the wisdom of 12th-century Catholic friar Saint Francis of Assisi who abandoned his worldly possessions to live a modest life. Saint Francis advised that we first “do what is necessary,” then “do what is possible” and eventually we will notice that we are “doing the impossible.” As Christian remarked, Saint Francis’ words resonate with Rotarians seeking to improve the world in small and large ways.
Then, at President Jennifer’s request, I introduced guests and Rotarians from other clubs joining us for lunch:
- Matthew Ford, Rotary Peace Fellow from 2005 to 2007, invited by President Jennifer;
- Charlotte Lallemont-Klaus, accompanying her father Past President David Klaus;
- Gib Leonard, Founding Director of the Buy A Brick Foundation, Dr. Sam Hancock’s guest;
- Dayna Neef, newly transplanted from Saginaw, Michigan where she belonged to the local Rotary Club;
- Steve Sami, invited by Past President Doris Margolis; and
- Reg Melrose, bringing us a banner from Vermont’s Williston Rotary Club.
In Sargent-at-Arms Buz Gorman’s absence, Ken Kimbrough saluted Rotarians celebrating birthdays this week:
- Larry Pressler on 29 March – Sponsored by Tim Hurd when he became a club member in 2013, Larry’s classification is education-government.
- Trip Triplin on 1 April – Joining our club in January 2014 under Abrahem Helal’s sponsorship, Trip’s classification is government service-budget analyst.
- Peter Kennedy on 2 April – Sponsored by Mac Asbill, Peter became a club member in 1991; his classification is document management services.
- Kenny Barnes on 3 April – A club member for 10 years, Kenny was sponsored by Donnie Shaw; his classification is gun violence prevention.
President Jennifer returned to the microphone to announce upcoming activities and events; so mark your calendars!
- Our first-ever Rotary Day is on Saturday, 25 April as our club collaborates with the Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle and Federal City clubs to host a free, family-friendly event at Farragut Square. If you wish to volunteer to help with Rotary Day activities, please let Gretchen Kearney know by Friday, 3 April so that you may receive a great-looking t-shirt.
- The International Service Committee meeting scheduled for after today’s lunch has been cancelled. The Committee has made its recommendations for 2014-15 to the club and Foundation boards. Committee leaders Maria-Nelly Pavisich, Brandon McGinnis and Ross Grantham thank everyone who participated in the review process.
- The Federal City Rotary Club will mark its one-year anniversary on Friday, 29 April with a party, and we are invited. The festivities will be at the British Embassy on 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW at 6:30 PM. Tickets are $15. More details and ticket purchase is available on the club’s website, www.rotaryfedcity.com.
Alexander Kravetz came to the podium to invite Rotarians to Happy Hour on Thursday, 2 April at 6:00 PM in the University Club’s Pub, thanking Irene Koerner for arranging this gathering. (Please note that this activity has already taken place.) Alexander also followed up on his invitation of two weeks ago for travel to Northern Iraq. He informed us that three members have committed to the trip to Erbil where they will participate in official ceremonies celebrating one year free of reported polio cases and in local vaccination drives.
President Jennifer called on Asif Bhally to share his experience with Rotary’s Polio Plus efforts in Pakistan during his trip there last month. Showing photographs of training sessions for healthcare workers and children being vaccinated, Asif underscored the difficulty of crossing cultural and political boundaries to educate Pakistanis, particularly in rural areas, about polio prevention. Despite a substantial refusal rate for children’s vaccinations among parents, Rotary’s efforts have yielded impressive results: 18,141 children have received vaccines, 538 meetings with parents and 51 with religious figures have taken place to sensitize them about the need for vaccinations, and 1,000 leaflets were distributed in this regard from 3 to 9 February 2015.
Thanking Asif, President Jennifer noted that our club will host a fundraiser for Polio Plus with the Federal City Club—details to come. She then gave the floor to Heather Jaffan who reminded us that World Water Day was on Sunday, 22 March. She explained that the United Nations has emphasized water’s significance as a resource integral to our ecosystem and crucial to agriculture, energy production, industry, gender equality and peace.
As President Jennifer stressed, our club is supporting a water project in Jordan. Declaring that such projects are made possible by members’ contributions to the Rotary International Foundation, she presented Paul Harris Awards to Rotarians who were not at lunch last week to receive them: Frank Reaves, a first-time Paul Harris Fellow; Patricia Bueno-Abdala, PH+1; Mark Wilson, PH+1; and Ken Kimbrough, PH+8. Ken elaborated on why he supports the RI Foundation. Wanting to enhance Rotary’s global reach, he decided when he joined our club eight years ago that he would contribute to the Foundation every year. Generally, to be a Paul Harris Fellow, one has to offer the RI Foundation a $1,000 contribution. Yet as Ken reminded us, our members may become Paul Harris Fellows with a $500 donation, because the generosity of others has enabled the club to match that sum with 500 points. He encouraged us all to meet that “low bar and take the plunge!”
Before turning to our guest speaker, President Jennifer welcomed Michael Harper and Charlotte Lallemont-Klaus into our club with their Red Badges.
Dushaw Hockett Asks Rotarians “Got Bias?”
Nancy Riker eloquently introduced Dushaw Hockett, Executive Director of SPACEs—Safe Places for the Advancement of Community and Equity. As she remarked, Dushaw’s work shows us how we can better negotiate real and perceived differences with one another in a society whose ethnic, racial, religious and gender diversity is increasing.
Forging a rapport with Rotarians, Mr. Hockett stepped out from behind the podium and declared that his primary geographical identity is as a “Brooklyn American.” He explained that SPACEs is an organization focused on leadership development and community building by working with individuals and groups to close the gap between vision and impact. Sharing a photograph of his “SPACEs extended family,” he described in detail an incident that made him aware of his own “implicit bias.” While leading a field trip with African American teenagers from the Highland neighborhood of southeast DC to Wheaton Regional Park, he was faced with two boys and two girls misbehaving. Riding the park’s miniature train, the boys stuck their hands out to touch tree branches and grab rocks, endangering themselves and others; the two girls teased and ignored another girl, badly hurting her feelings.
Dushaw asked us to choose from among three options for how to deal with these young people’s misbehavior: (1) The four teenagers would not be punished and could take the next day’s field trip. (2) All of them would be barred from taking that field trip as punishment for their actions. (3) The boys would be prohibited from taking the field trip, but the girls would be allowed to go. He determined in a “snap decision” that the boys would not be allowed to participate in the next day’s field trip whereas the girls could go. Upon reconsidering his choice, he recognized that he had “acted on an implicit bias against other black boys as 13-year-old Dushaw in Brooklyn.” His previous negative experiences as a teenager with other African American boys had led to this bias.
Everyone has implicit biases of which they may or may not be aware, and as Mr. Hockett asserted, acting on these biases “cuts people in little ways.” The subject of much research, he distributed the executive summary of the Perception Institute’s 2014 report, The Science of Equality. Implicit bias operates at the subconscious level “against our stated egalitarian principles” and is “triggered when we make automatic and rapid decisions about associations between people, objects an ideas and the stereotypes and attitudes we hold about them.” Implicit bias functions at the individual and institutional levels to the detriment of certain groups and society at large. Dushaw underscored this point with three examples. (1) Among African American men convicted of crimes, those with “stereotypical black facial features” serve sentences eight months longer than the others for the same offense. (2) Black students are suspended and expelled from school three times more than whites. African American children comprise 18 percent of pre-schoolers, but they are 48 percent of those suspended. (3) At Google and other high-tech companies, 60 to 70 percent of executives and engineers are males.
Mr. Hockett invited Rotarians to perform a series of simple but highly effective exercises, illuminating how and why implicit bias operates. As he demonstrated, implicit bias is created when the brain is “primed” by a pattern of expected associations and/or events not to consider an object that breaks the pattern. Alternatively, when an individual “confronts two incongruent concepts at the same time, bias may creep into decision making—for instance, a woman or a person of color in a leadership role.” Finally, bias may appear when we are so focused on one object or issue that our minds become “cognitively busy, and we are rendered mentally blind so that we can’t see people, including those we should affirm.”
With the time allotted for his presentation winding down, Dushaw highlighted the value of questioning ourselves and recognizing our own implicit biases. A conversation about implicit bias is “revolutionary in terms of how we act and talk about race,” he contended. “We are good at getting in people’s faces” to discuss race, provoking sharp defensive reactions. Examining one another’s and our own implicit biases, he concluded, is a “more graceful way to reach people through their hearts and minds.”
Mr. Hockett stayed after our meeting to address inquisitive Rotarians’ comments and questions. Chatting with me, he indicated that those who wish to know more about implicit bias may contact him by e-mail, email@example.com, and/or visit the website www.thespacesproject.org. Additionally, if anyone wants to read The Science of Equality in full, the report may be downloaded from the Perception Institute’s site, http://perception.org. Last but not least, Dushaw informed me that SPACEs is currently engaged in a local campaign to enlist 1,000 DC area residents to take the Implicit Association Test (IAT) on race by the end of 2015. Designed by social scientists at Harvard University, the IAT is free to take, highly interactive and may be completed in roughly 10 minutes. The web link for the test is http://bit.ly/1nsczDd. Your humble secretary took the test and found it engaging and revealing! I encourage all my fellow Rotarians to take the IAT as well and discover whether you “got bias.”
Adjourned Until Next Week
President Jennifer presented our “Trees for the Capital” certificate to Dushaw Hockett. Meanwhile, members awaited news of who held the winning raffle ticket sold in a joint effort by Laura Khor and Peg Schoen. When the lucky numbers were revealed, Laura was stunned to be holding that ticket, claiming the small pot of $48. Because she did not draw the ace of spades from our deck of cards, the grand prize of $435 will continue to grow.
Our appreciation goes to Greeter Laura Khor, doing double duty, and to Johnny Allem, Balraj Gupta and Stu Shalloway for staffing the Hospitality Table.
On 8 April, our speakers will be Divya and Naina Wodon—daughters of Capitol Hill Rotarian Quentin Wodon (formerly a member of our club), authors of Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience and founders of the Washington International School’s Interact Club.
President Jennifer adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM … And then I passed my pen to Red Badge member Judith Henderson who will record next week’s Meeting in Review, giving my writing right hand a break!