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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Our Stewardship Work

Posted: 06/26/2020
by Theresa Simsiman

We are taking the time to listen and learn. That is the statement American Whitewater made last month to reckon with the much-needed conversation about race taking place across the world. It was true to our desire to spend some real time assessing the intersection of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion within our river stewardship work. Since then, staff, with guidance from our board, has initiated some hard-internal conversations to discuss what we have learned and to figure out what we can do to affect change.

Personally, as a person of color it's been an uneasy undertaking to have these discussions. For one, I felt the strong need for our organization to take a step back and to have a genuine response. A response that would have a lasting impact beyond a "Diversity Equity & Inclusion" statement that sits in obscurity on our website. So, I sent my colleagues this perspective from a Person of Color:


I wanted to share this to give you my perspective. I haven't said much about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) over the last year, since we briefly discussed it at our Board meeting in Colorado. It can be extremely exhausting for me personally to deal with my own anxiety about how my caucasian colleagues will react, to deal with white-guilt reactions, and to have a point of view that my colleagues simply will never have. I have also attended quite a few river advocacy meetings, not to mention DEI specific workshops or conference calls where I am the only person of color. 
I have been perfectly fine keeping my perspective to myself and working to address diversity, equity, and inclusion within my own river advocacy work plan when the opportunities arise, as I'm sure many of you have as well. However, I realize now that this is not enough. Thus, my push for American Whitewater staff to come up with a plan of action and to do the hard-internal work first.


Admittedly, I sent this to my workmates with some apprehension, but I have been vindicated by their response. The entire staff at American Whitewater agrees, more work needs to be done and we continue to take these steps today. American Whitewater has yet to map where these steps will take us exactly, but we want to be transparent and thorough about our journey. Over time expect to see and hear more from American Whitewater on this much-needed evolution in our work. For over a half-century we've been working hard to ensure all have safe access to clean and dynamic, free-flowing rivers and creeks, but we recognize that we need to strategically choose some projects where our river restoration, protection, and access work will have a greater impact on diverse communities

As a unified organization we support a nonviolent diversity, equity, and inclusion and we are taking inspiration from the recent movements to address how our work can benefit and include a greater diversity of Americans. We look forward to you joining us and supporting our efforts, as we continue to do all the great stewardship work we've consistently done, just better as we continue to grow as an institution.

Theresa L. Simsiman, California Stewardship Director

Kevin Colburn, National Stewardship Director

Scott Harding, Stewardship Assistant

Hattie Johnson, Southern Rockies Stewardship Director

Kestrel Kunz, Southern Rockies Stewardship Assistant

Robert Nasdor, Northeast Stewardship Director

Thomas O'keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director

Bethany Overfield, Membership Director

Mark Singleton, Executive Director

Evan Stafford, Communications Director

Ian Stafford, Colorado Policy Strategist

Dave Steindorf, California Hydropower Specialist

Laura Wilson, Finance Director

Jesse Wycko