Reflections on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging during Pride Month

Throughout the month of June, Villages have celebrated the beauty of diversity in Village Life, while also discussing what it means to be an inclusive, safe environment where residents, team members, loved ones and community partners can be their true, authentic selves.

Riverside Glen community celebrates prideJune is Pride Month, so the focus has been on the long struggle for inclusion within the lgbtq2s+ communities, but diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is not only about one, two or even 20 communities – the conversation is about each of us in all of our own uniqueness.

In 2024, it would seem that we have come far, yet the fact remains that there are still people in corners of our communities and in wider society as a whole who continue to feel marginalized, unable to feel safe in their own personal reality.

In one Village, for example, several of the Pride Month posters were covered in derogatory, hurtful messages by a faceless, nameless person, while in another, a pastor’s accepting views on lgbtq2s+ inclusion rights were challenged and their faith questioned.

In yet another, a team member overheard two family members talking about how disgusted they were with the organization for putting an emphasis on Pride Month and “those people,” yet there was no formal recognition of the anniversary of the great allied efforts in the Second World War on D-day, June 6, 1945.

The concepts of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are critically important at Schlegel Villages, and the organization is committed to the ongoing, evolving conversations required to ensure nobody loses sight of how important it is that all feel welcome and safe.

The above examples illustrate why the conversation is so important, and reminds us that we can never claim to have it all figured out, for our Village communities are fluid and ever-changing.

Sadiya, from SAGECare, joins us on stage at our Leadership ConferenceIn April during the annual Schlegel Villages leadership retreat, Sadiya Abjani from the organization SAGECare, offered a thoughtful presentation to 400 leaders on what it takes to create inclusive communities that honour diversity in Village Life.

SAGECare is a U.S.-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) older adults, and they are helping Schlegel Villages ensure that its policies and perspectives are foundational in the progression to more inclusive Villages.

In her experience at the conference, Sadiya saw an organization that is certainly moving strongly in the right direction, but also one that is honest in its recognition that the work towards true inclusion is never-ending. 

“When it comes to understanding and integrating voices of diversity, I think Schlegel Villages is a step ahead,” Sadiya says. And yet, everyone connected to the organization must continue to always challenge their own personal assumptions when it comes to the others they are connected to with the Villages.

“There are things changing constantly on multiple levels,” she says, and there are questions we can ask ourselves. “What kind of internalised notions do I have? What assumptions do I have, and how are those stopping me from doing the best job possible?

“What assumptions am I making simply by like looking at a person assuming that they identify a certain way because of the way that they look.”

When one looks at the example of two family members wondering why Pride was celebrated and not the anniversary of D-day, she responds by suggesting inclusion means finding a way to ensure that any event or a conversation that is important to an individual has room for recognition if it is voiced, provided it causes no harm to others.

“If we’re building the kind of civil society where everyone feels that their voices matter and that they’re able to invest in the kind of culture they want to build,” Sadiya says, “then there should be a mechanism that this individual is aware of where they can say, ‘hey, this is an important thing for me and I would like to do something about it.’ ”

Ensuring that the mechanism is in place for all is the reason for the journey towards a better future for all, and why Schlegel Villages is committed to honouring diversity, equity and belonging in Village life.

What does Pride mean to you?