INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Continued protests are sparking conversations about racism within the Junior League of Indianapolis. In our series “We Stand Together,” News 8’s Katiera Winfrey sat down with the organization’s president, Patrice Dawson, who explains what the organization is doing to create change.
Some would argue George Floyd’s death helped tip the scale allowing open conversations about racism. The protest his death sparked continues to stretch around the country.
And in Indianapolis, the Junior League — an organization of women committed to improving communities — is taking notice.
DAWSON: My first thought when everything happened with George Floyd was it was unbelievable. I couldn’t even really put into words what I was thinking and what I was feeling. I talked to my husband; I talk to my daughter about it. But from the Junior League standpoint, my Junior League members started automatically emailing me, calling me, saying that we have to say something, but it was something that was completely heinous that I can’t even put into words.”
WINFREY: And just the response afterwards though, did that come as a shock to see so many people coming together for a specific purpose like that?
DAWSON: Oh my gosh, it was amazing. It was beautiful to see. So many people from different generations and different ethnicities coming together just to protest, you know, what wasn’t right. So absolutely it was beautiful to see.
WINFREY: A lot of these protests we see, we see women are at the forefront of organizing out there on the front lines. Talk about how the Junior League kind of plays into this idea of the role women play in sparking change.
DAWSON: Women in the community is what the Junior League is about. So we are a women’s leadership organization that promotes volunteerism. So one of our important things is to educate our members to have the conversation. So, for me, I said something to our members. We need to have a conversation about race. It’s OK. It’s not taboo. It’s OK to have the conversation to talk about race and equity. And also take those conversations out to your friends. Take them out to your neighbors and really, really talk about this and do whatever you can do to make that change in the community.”
WINFREY: And so talk about some of the initiatives. I don’t know if you guys have had large gatherings at the Junior League if you’ve gone to have speaking engagements. What are some of the things that you guys are doing moving forward as we live through all this?
DAWSON: So moving forward as an organization, it’s important to us to make sure that we take the slow and steady road to make sure what we do has an impact. We want to make sure that it’s not something on the surface, that is something that’s truly impactful. So we’ve created a diversity, equity and inclusion task force to make sure that we study for our members what we can do. It will start with speakers, start with training. We’re still in the development phase and we don’t really have all the answers. But that’s where we’re starting. Hopefully it’ll be something that our members can take forward take what they’ve learned and bring it out to the community.”
WINFREY: As a person in your position to lead the Junior League, how important is it to have it in the representation in those key leadership roles?
DAWSON: Oh it’s so important to have representation. And one of the things we’re trying to do is to make sure our members are of different ethnicities and different backgrounds. So we are trying to make sure that we recruit members from everywhere. We want to have a diverse and inclusive organization. We want to make sure that people look to us do you have a place to learn and be educated on leadership and then bring them back to the community. So that’s really really important
WINFREY: If there’s someone watching and they want to find a way to get involved to help out, how can the Junior League be that place for them?
DAWSON: The Junior League is a place that teaches you so many different skills that you wouldn’t believe you could ever learn. Contact us contact a member go out and just have a conversation look up the Junior League. The junior leaders all over the United States. It’s all over the world to be honest. We’ve been in the Indianapolis community for 98 years. We’ve had a lot come see us, we are about having the conversation about change. Having the conversation about moving forward. And it’s OK to talk about these things. It’s OK it’s not a bad word that’s how we begin the process of moving forward.
WINFREY: I talked to you about George Floyd earlier and just your thought process and how it sparked all of this change. Was it shocking to see that happen?
DAWSON: You know I think what’s interesting is it was shocking but listening to my 15-year-old daughter talking about she was like it has to happen. So I think about that in her mind. No this is what supposed to happen. It’s shocking for me but for her this is the way it was supposed to go. So absolutely looking at it, it’s beautiful to me to see this I want to see the change continue. I want to see the conversations happen. I think that’s the most important part keep the conversation going. The Junior League of Indianapolis, that’s one of the things we are going to do amongst our members and then spread that out to the community. Don’t be afraid to talk make sure we continue so that’s how we move forward.