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Washtenaw United: UWSEM's 21-Day Equity Challenge kicks off this week

United Way for Southeastern Michigan senior director for diversity, equity and inclusion Andre Ebron
Andre Ebron
United Way for Southeastern Michigan senior director for diversity, equity and inclusion Andre Ebron


Andre Ebron is the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. In this role, he is committed to fostering equitable communities by encouraging and empowering community members to use their personal power, privilege, influence, voice, and resources. The goal is to build trust, transparency, and productive relationships that lead to positive change.

Additionally, Andre Ebron has been serving in this position since April 2021. His impact extends beyond United Way, as he is also the President and CEO of Ebron & Associates


United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM)

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UWSEM 21-Day Equity Challenge

Equity Challenge Sign-Up


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and welcome to this week's edition of Washtenaw United. It is our weekly exploration of equity and opportunity in our community. I'm David Fair, and I think if I asked, most of us would self describe as open-minded and open-hearted. The thought of prejudice and bias is rather repugnant. But we do live in a society with racial, social and economic inequities in a country founded on white, Eurocentric values. That's the environment we've all grown up in together. As such, most of us carry some form of implicit bias. It is said all change begins at home. And beginning this Friday, from the comfort of our homes or offices, we have the chance to explore where these biases may lay in our individual perceptions of the world around us and the impacts that can have. It is the United Way for Southeastern Michigan's 21-Day Equity Challenge, and we're going to learn more about it with Andre Ebron. Andre is the United Way's senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion. And thank you so much for making time today, Andre!

Andre Ebron: Thank you so much for having us! We are excited to be here, and we are excited about the launch of our fourth annual 21-Day Equity Challenge!

David Fair: Well, before I start to discuss with you the kind of challenge this is going to be, I do want to take a look into the areas where the United Way finds inequities in its service to the residents of Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan.

Andre Ebron: Absolutely! So, we are finding inequities in all of our service areas. When you think about our service to education, our service to digital equity to ensure that every resident has access to high speed internet or the resources or the digital resources necessary to engage for quality of life items, whether it's students for after school, senior citizens for telehealth, or people who are looking for workforce development and searching for jobs, we want to make sure that everyone is digitally connected. And then, also our work around with our Racial Equity fund to ensure that BIPOC leaders across southeastern Michigan who work to serve and meet the needs of our community every single day have the resources and the capacity building resources needed to properly serve them. We also want to think about our how we're closing the food scarcity gap. We want to make sure that we are getting the resources to the community and to those organizations that are most proximate to our community to meet those needs. And you also think about our financial well-being innovation challenge, where we're working with organizations to make sure they're properly positioned and fundable by other institutions to really carry out their mission and their work, which is serving our citizens and residents of southeastern Michigan. So, if you just look across the landscape, ALICE report, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed, we recognize that there are huge economic gaps that really impact whether someone's able to buy food or pay for childcare. And so, we are diligently working, number one, to raise awareness. And then, number two, to make sure that we are filling those gaps with the resources that causes children to really, really be able to actualize their potential and to cause families across southeastern Michigan to thrive.

David Fair: That is work in the community. This challenge is about looking inward. Has it been your experience that many of us simply fail to recognize that, within ourselves, we have bias and perpetuate them systematically?

Andre Ebron: Well, I think it's just part of being human, right? Everybody that's listening to me, say "I am human!" If you're human, that means you have two things. You have bias and you also have blind spots, where it could have been where we grew up, the community where we grew up, the culture of our own individual households, what we've been indoctrinated or inculcated to believe. And here's the good thing is that, according to psychology, 95% of behavior is learned. And so, that might not even be your own independent thought. It may just be how you were raised. It may have been your exposure to individuals or lack of exposure to individuals who were different in you. And so, we recognize that just being human automatically means that we both have bias and blind spots. But here's the good news is that you can participate in the 21-Day Equity Challenge and be exposed to information that can change your worldview and to help you gain insight into how other people outside of your specific community, how they live on a daily basis.

David Fair: We're talking about the upcoming 21-Day Equity Challenge with Andre Ebron on WEMU's Washtenaw United. Andre is senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Well, the challenge begins on Friday of this week. How does it work, Andre?

Andre Ebron: So, the 21-Day Equity Challenge is 21 days where you can build your equity muscle. We're using Doctor Eddie Moore Junior's framework. It will cause you to receive emails to read, watch, listen and engage. And this year, here's the good news, is we have three opportunities on each Friday for you to be able to engage in what we're calling "Community Action Fridays." So, after you've gone the entire week of receiving the emails, investing no less than 1% of your day, we're asking for 15 minutes of your day, to read that email, to engage with the resources, to listen to the YouTube or the podcast links that are a part of that. And then, that Friday, you're able to go from ideation to action. You're really able to get out in the community--the volunteer opportunities that we have that are listed on our website, unitedwaysem.org, where you can take action on your interest.

David Fair: You've worked on equity issues as a social worker, Andre, and of the work you were doing with the United Way. What do you see as advantages of getting this information delivered directly with the opportunity to pursue self-awareness and recognition more privately?

Andre Ebron: Well, I believe that change starts in the work first, and when you work introspectively, that change, it not only affects your lens. So, we're not working so that people can have a better equity lens. We are hoping that people cultivate an equity mindset, which impacts how they navigate life in general. And so, we're asking that you start with you first. And then, we're asking for you to work within your sphere of influence, the people that you already have some relational equity with. And then, from there, we're asking you to go, whether it's a friend or a colleague or a family member, and then participate with organizations that are in your local community that are able to serve and help those who have been most marginalized and harmed by systemic oppression. And so, it's that really that kind of rung of influence, starting with yourself first, those who you have relational equity with, and then work to change within your community.

David Fair: You mentioned it is, obviously, you first with this process. You've taken the equity challenge before, I surmise?

Andre Ebron: Absolutely!

David Fair: And what did you learn about yourself through that process?

Andre Ebron: So, one of the activities that we have, which is really in, like, the first couple of weeks or the first week of the challenge, is social identity will. And it helped me to really unpack all of the intersection of my identity and how I'm able to navigate through the world or the barriers that exist, or that are perceived, to keep me from really thriving. And I was able to share that with others in community. And it really builds...again, community is my favorite place to be, and so, whether that's virtual or in person, really to build a support system around my identity that helps me to push forward and to actualize and achieve my dreams, also to meet or to fulfill any needs that I may have, right? So, the best place to learn--write this down, everybody--the best place to learn is community. And so, when I unpacked my social identity--and I'm still unpacking it--is you're never done with your equity journey. But unpacking my social identity and the history of my social identity helps me to better navigate this world.

David Fair: Once again, this is 89 one WEMU's Washtenaw United. And we're talking with United Way of Southeastern Michigan senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion Andre Ebron in advance of Friday's launch of the 21-Day Equity Challenge. Because this is an online delivered program, Andre, literally everyone interested can participate. Last year, there were more than 9000 people that chose to join the challenge--people from 27 different states and three different countries. What did all of you at the United Way learn from that experience of people joining in?

Andre Ebron: That when there is a safe and a brave environment, we can not only express what we believe, but that we have healthy challenges to what we believe about other cultures, races, the intersection of someone else's identity, is that the community will grow. So, last year, while we were at 9000, this year, we're expecting over 13,000 based upon the current signups for people to really engage. And so, when people find a safe and a brave environment where they can learn, where they can grow, where they can develop, where they can express their beliefs and learn from one another, people will tell other people, and so that you are a champion of change. And so, that is what I really want people who are listening to me this morning is that if change is to be, it begins with me. Go ahead, declare that to yourself. Say that out loud and really start sharing that information with someone else. And when we have more people that are informed about the inequities and there are no longer blind spots or they'll no longer possess a bias toward it, that they will begin to work toward making that equitable change. So, from one year, we're going from 9000 to 13,000-plus. I think that's people spreading the word.

David Fair: Thank you for the time and sharing the information today, Andre! You've got me all excited about the Equity Challenge, and I think you'll do the same for many others as well!

Andre Ebron: Thank you!

David Fair: That is Andre Ebron. He is senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. He's been our guest on Washtenaw United. The return of the 21-Day Equity Challenge begins this Friday, May 17th. It is free and open to absolutely everyone. For more information and to learn how to get signed up, we have all you need on our website at wemu.org. And over the next several weeks, we'll be diving into topics covered in the challenge as part of our ongoing Washtenaw United conversations. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.


United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s fourth annual 21-Day Equity Challenge will return Friday, May 17, inviting education, exploration, and thought-provoking conversation. This year, we’ll feature brand new content that will be sent to your inbox each weekday that focuses on Washtenaw County and the greater southeast Michigan area.

Prior to the merging of United Way of Washtenaw County to United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Washtenaw was the first county in the nation to launch the 21-Day Equity Challenge in 2020. That same year, the Washtenaw County United Way launched a COVID-19 Edition of the Challenge in May and a Michigan Edition of the Challenge in August.

What is the 21-Day Equity Challenge?

The 21-Day Equity Challenge is a commitment to learn the different ways that bias, prejudice, privilege, and oppression show up in our everyday lives through a series of emails.

When does the 21-Day Equity Challenge start?

The challenge will take place each weekday from May 17-June 14.

How do I participate in the 21-Day Equity Challenge?

Sign up online to receive an email each of the 21 days asking you to Listen, Read, Watch, and Act on issues affecting our community.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

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Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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