Listening and learning drive personal, professional transformation

Reflecting on my participation in CSHA’s journey as an organization, I realize the transformation that has occurred. As a longtime CSHA volunteer, I understand that membership recruitment and retention have consistently been at the fore in the minds of leaders and the activities supported by the organization.

During my tenure as president-elect, president and board chair, CSHA leaders participated in a nonstop journey, discovering and absorbing information on best practices for nonprofit organizations, boards, volunteers and members. We determined that building the core of the organization through membership required that we identify obstacles to involvement for newer members, as well as nonmembers, and remove any barriers we could, while remaining true to required standards for nonprofit associations in general, and CSHA in particular.

It was apparent that we needed to listen to the views and opinions of new members, nonmembers and other stakeholders, especially those from younger generations and those from varying diverse backgrounds. We began to identify ways in which the association could become more valuable and reflective of these individuals. We were determined to create an agile and relevant organization that could readily function in the ever-evolving world in which we live.

Fast forward to the current CSHA organization.

It’s a ground-breaking nonprofit, steered by a coalition of highly engaged leaders. They are aware of the complexities of intersectionality and understand that they have a responsibility and an accountability that extends well beyond the personal into the community at large.

One of the ways CSHA has extended its reach is through the CSHA Convos that have been so positively received. Through this forum, a safe space has been created in which members and the broader CSHA community may engage in professional, and most importantly, personal discussions regarding various issues. It has been an outstanding venue for many to connect, learn and share feelings and emotions.

I don’t need to inform Convey magazine readers of the events that have occurred and continue to occur in our nation. I would, however, like to inform you that CSHA’s journey toward diversity, equality and equity began well before the incidents of last summer.

Looking back on CSHA history, the earlier iteration of our Diversity Committee is likely what comes to mind. It was an outstanding vehicle to increase awareness. Nonetheless, it was maintained as a separate piece of the CSHA pie, rather than making it an essential ingredient of the whole pie. Within the past few years, we realized we needed to make essential changes to the core of the association if we were going to reflect the California community, not only for professional members, but for those we serve and all related stakeholders. Some of those changes needed to occur in relation to diversity, equality and equity. We knew there was much to do and that we needed to draw upon many areas and aspects of these issues.

Personally, I have spent a major portion of my life on this journey, beginning at 5 years old, in 1955 (you can do the math), when my parents helped me understand that an urban renewal project in Portland, Oregon, was displacing many, many people, and a historic synagogue. My awareness increased consistently over the years, partially while spending much of my after-school time at Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon where my mother was a volunteer speech therapist.

One of my greatest single impressions of inequity was my mother’s incensed reaction to the owner of the house next door refusing to rent to a “negro” friend in the early 1960s. Forty plus years later when I went into the house we had once owned, I saw the phone in the same place and had a visceral reaction to the memory of that call.

Moving forward in time, the civil rights movement was occurring during my junior and senior high school years, and I became involved in many ways, often with students my age and younger. This included tutoring for three years in a Black grade school, helping with the development of a Black teen club, then attending the club.

I’ve never been able to stop looking around me to figure out what needs doing. The first action I took within CSHA as a district director was to invite Soloris Greene to join the District 6 Advisory Committee to represent and report to the group about the California affiliate of the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing. And the list goes on.

All the events I have mentioned, and those I have not, were only pieces of a whole, separate from and not at all equal to the rest of my life or the community and world around me. I was not really “woke” and I did not understand fully the ways in which so many parts of our lives intersect. I can be excused from not knowing the word intersectionality because Kimberle Crenshaw had not yet coined the term. And I suppose I might be excused from previously not fully understanding all the issues. But I can no longer be excused from any of it. I must consistently work to increase my awareness of issues, the intersections that do, do not or should occur, and the role(s) I should play. I must look, listen and learn. Then I must speak and act, or refrain from speaking or acting, accordingly. I intend for my education to be ongoing and endless.

I see CSHA as a broader version of myself and my journey, which is why the current iteration of the association is so very meaningful to me. CSHA and its leaders have evolved significantly over time and have made great strides through the years. As with our nation, CSHA must now increase the pace of learning and evolution, to meet the standards and demands of our time.

The current CSHA leaders realize that for the association to be meaningful to members, it must be relevant to the times, as well as to the wants and needs of the professions and the community. Thank you, CSHA, for doing the hard work to become that association! I know you will not only survive these times, but become a leader at the forefront of California nonprofits! I am so proud to be a member.

Beryl Fogel is a former chair of the CSHA Board of Directors.