Max, a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, discusses what it means to be an ally.
What is allyship?
Simply, it means being an ally, a supporter, a friend, in the actions needed to bring about a more equal and inclusive community, workplace, or society. In our case, u3a.
What does it look like?
I’ll give my own example: for many years, I worked with school pupils with physical disabilities and complex medical conditions. My main job was to ensure that these young people received the support they needed in mainstream schools to access the same level of opportunity as their able-bodied peers. To do this, I acted as an advocate for the pupils, not only in schools, but also in decision-making meetings at Local Authority level. Although I am an able-bodied person, I was nevertheless, due to my job, able to promote and enable inclusive practice and dismantle many barriers which the pupils had faced. In other words, to act as an ally.
How does this relate to u3a?
We know that there are many individuals and communities amongst the u3a age range who have faced various barriers to inclusion their whole lives and may think that u3a is not for them. As an ally, you can raise this in your local u3a, or start or join your u3a’s own D&I committee; if you are a convenor, you can make your activities as inclusive as possible. The list is endless!
The key point is that even if you do not have the lived experience of someone who faces barriers, by listening, learning and understanding, it is totally valid to stand beside someone to support them in the journey towards equality of opportunity and full inclusion. You won’t be speaking for them, you’ll be speaking with them.
This TED video gives an excellent account of this: https://www.ted.com/talks/nita_mosby_tyler_want_a_more_just_world_be_an_unlikely_ally
Celebrating diversity, and promoting and enabling equality and inclusion are too important to be left to a few individuals. It’s everyone’s job, and everyone can be an ally!
Are you interested in the work of the u3a Diversity and Inclusion Committee? Why not join their u3a coffee morning on 19 October to find out more about possibly becoming a committee member?