To our community:
THE WELL is committed to doing organizational anti-racist work. We know that “anti-racist” isn’t simply a label or identity we get to claim; it’s not a box to check off. It is a constant practice — a dance between reflection and action, requiring us to turn inward and to take real steps. We recognize that having the intention to be an ally is very different than acting in line with allyship, which is different than being actively anti-racist. In the infancy of our brand we have fallen somewhere between the first two. In other words, we have fallen short.
Over the course of the last year, while launching THE WELL, we have also been creating the framework for our Working Toward Wellness Equity program. In an effort to act with purpose — thinking through what our role is and should be in equity work, what is truly helpful and what is actually harmful — we started by establishing a set of guiding principles. The intention: To have something we could always turn back to in order to assess our actions and something our internal task force and equity team — and our broader community — could hold us accountable to.
To start by locating ourselves in how we are participating in a system that upholds white supremacy, and working through our blindspots to create space for equity in our work to build an integrative wellness model, we held a Race & Resiliency workshop co-led by Michelle C. Johnson, author of Skill in Action, and Kerri Kelly, founder of CTZN WELL, in January of this year.
We recognize and regret that we have waited too long following that training to take further action.
Now and moving forward, we commit to active anti-racist work. In line with our guiding principles, we commit to the following:
We will immediately prioritize hiring Black leadership and establish hiring practices that center diversity throughout our organizational growth.
We recognize the historical lack of diversity and the outright exclusion of certain ethnic and racial groups in the popular discourse around wellness — and furthermore, in leadership roles in Corporate America. We acknowledge that we have perpetuated this problem at THE WELL and we commit to prioritizing the hiring of individuals from diverse identities — ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, religions, gender expressions and abilities — particularly in leadership roles.
We will formalize this commitment in our hiring practices by broadening the networks in which we recruit from and establishing hiring requirements that emphasize and prioritize multicultural inclusion so as not to discriminate against individuals and groups that come from various backgrounds, educational institutions and diverse lived experiences.
With an emphasis on our Mindful Movement teachers, practitioners and management teams, we commit to reaching population parity among our team members. Black people make up nearly 15% of the U.S. population — and within the next 12 months we commit to Black team members making up at least 15% of THE WELL team. We will share updates on our team’s makeup on a quarterly basis over the next 12 months and beyond.
We recognize that social justice and equity work are also mental health issues and in the next 30 days, we will be hiring a BIPOC mental health professional to facilitate Support Circles and play a role in shaping our mental and emotional wellness initiatives as an organization.
We will constantly work toward a mindful and welcoming company culture that encourages us to acknowledge our unique roles in perpetuating oppressive systems and empowers us to work to actively dismantle them.
We acknowledge that hiring more BIPOC individuals does not alone create the structural changes that are needed and that internal work must be done to ensure that the experiences and values of BIPOC and individuals of diverse identities are honored and reflected in all of our practices and offerings.
We are committed to growing our organization's capacity to both reflect and act on our unique roles in dismantling oppressive systems, so that when individuals of diverse social identities are part of the space, it is one that feels welcoming and inclusive. We will hold ourselves (and each other) accountable to mindfulness and care in every choice we make. Knowing mistakes may be made along the way, we will continue to self-reflect, examine, take responsibility and improve.
We will ensure our culture invites unsolicited feedback and will also conduct regular surveys (at least quarterly) both within our teams and among our community, to formalize opportunities for feedback.
We are actively identifying trainings to build upon the work we started with our Race & Resiliency workshop, as well as engaging external consultants to help further develop the team’s self-awareness around issues related to power and privilege.
We are aware that as a predominantly white space composed of many people who are at the beginning of their journey in examining whiteness, we cannot do this work in a silo and need to invite in support to help us build sustainable culturally competent practices, policies and systems. We believe that it is the white person's job to dismantle racism, and that in order to do the necessary work we must constantly seek education and support, while also committing to the internal work of figuring out how we have impeded the liberation, pleasure and wellness of Black and Brown lives.
To support us in centering equity in all of our wellness work, we will turn to the wisdom of individuals and organizations who have been most impacted by inequities in wellness and who are already doing powerful work in community wellness. We will be vigilant in our awareness of the contributions shared — knowing that not every contribution stems from a partnership or a written contract — and we will compensate those we benefit from for their knowledge sharing and labor.
We will offer our resources (financial and otherwise) in a meaningful way, and where possible, as part of a larger relationship or partnership.
We recognize that our support can come in many forms — and that it isn’t us who should be determining which contributions are most beneficial. We understand that it is not our role to say, “Here’s what we want to do to help you,” but instead, “How can we contribute in a way that meaningfully supports you and your work? What is needed? What do you see as our role?”
In our first year, while building THE WELL, we have made financial contributions to Breakout as part of their community grant giving, Tufts University's School of Nutrition Science and Policy as a member of their Food and Nutrition Innovation Council and Baby2Baby to support their COVID-19 relief efforts for families across the country.
To build upon this, we are committing additional capital to support organizations doing racial and social justice work and/or work that directly supports equity in wellness, to be identified and committed within the next 30 days. Any organization we partner with in this way will have accepted and guided our contributions and we will continue to offer our partnership and allyship to them, supporting where we can and specifically in the ways they request our contributions.
We will also continue to scale up our financial commitments to the listed organizations and others over the course of this year and beyond.
In an effort to help and encourage our broader community to take action by way of financial support, we have recently highlighted racial justice organizations and/or Black-led wellness companies who are accepting or specifically requesting financial support on social media and in this resource guide. We will continue to share this information and offer calls to action for our community.
We will hire a management position to lead equity work at THE WELL and will equip our internal task force, and later our Equity Team, to guide our policies, inform our culture and hold us accountable.
As a result of our team’s Race & Resiliency training in January, we have initiated an internal task force to help us take action in the short-term. In recognizing that this task force can only be a reflection of our larger team, and acknowledging we are far from where we need to be in terms of organizational diversity, we see this as a first step in ensuring that anti-racist practice and equity work is prioritized and remains mission critical to THE WELL.
The task force will, in the short-term, hold us accountable to these commitments and our guiding principles which helped inform them. Despite having this task force dedicated to doing so, we invite all team members — and our broader community — to offer their feedback and hold us accountable as well.
Additionally, we are creating a leadership role to lead this work for the company in relationship with the Equity Team. This position will be established by Q4 and will be filled by a BIPOC individual.
A longer term Equity Team will be formed prior to 2021, at which time the Task Force will step aside and make room for a group of more diverse individuals across the organization, at all levels, to lead the way. While ensuring the Equity Team has diverse representation, we will also hold awareness for the ways in which roles in this work differ based on individual social identities.
The Equity Team will be voluntary, but compensated.
We will proactively work to diversify our community, increase access to our spaces and services and expand our network of writers, presenters and facilitators.
We acknowledge the lack of diversity among our Members and those who currently gather at our Club. While we aspire for our community to reflect the diversity of the surrounding geographic communities of New York City, we know we’re not there yet. Much like how we commit to changing our recruitment efforts to grow a more diverse team, we will reexamine the ways in which we actively outreach to grow our community.
In the coming weeks, ahead of reopening the Club, we are exploring multiple approaches we can take to increase the accessibility of our services and offerings. We have already received many suggestions for this, and we welcome additional thoughts. We will have more to share on our path forward in July, but addressing this remains a priority among our commitments.
We commit to not only bringing in more BIPOC writers for our digital content and presenters for our programming, but also to ensuring that ALL writers and presenters speak to the experience of diverse individuals, being mindful of gender pronouns, different cultural values and lived experiences. We have always said there is not a "one size fits all" approach to wellness and we commit to our offerings better reflecting this reality.
We will continue to ensure that our Support Circles remain inclusive spaces (in the topics we select, the facilitators that we identify and the questions we pose to the Circle) that enable participants to own their own experiences, connect across differences and bring their whole selves.
We will continue to contribute to research and policy work that impacts a shift toward wellness equity. We are currently focused on food policy as a crucial healthcare issue.
We believe that food is both a social justice and health justice issue. We acknowledge that our food systems are inherently racist, from the ways that land, subsidies and other resources have historically been divided in favor of white farmers (despite the fact that many of the farming practices used today stem from African and indigenous roots) to the placement of food deserts, which often results in putting Black communities at higher risk of illness due to lack of access to fresh, nutritious food.
We recognize that our food supply chain is not designed to prevent hunger, but instead to meet the needs of the financial market. As a result of disruptions in demand due to COVID-19, we simultaneously have seen the destruction of crops and livestock around the world because of a downturn in business from restaurants, alongside longer lines of people at food banks due to increased unemployment.
As part of our efforts to contribute to advocacy work on this topic, THE WELL is a member of the Food & Nutrition Innovation Council, a group of 50 organizations whose mission is to foster a robust, science-driven ecosystem of food, agriculture and wellness innovation and entrepreneurship for a healthier, equitable and sustainable food system. As a member, we make an annual contribution to the council and actively participate in meetings and working sessions throughout the year.
We know that anti-racist work is not just making financial donations and commitment statements, or even implementing principles, practices and systems. This is heart work — it is facing ourselves and looking at the ways that an organization of majority white individuals have benefited from racism, have carried superiority within us and have led from this place. It is looking at who we are and what we need to do to unlearn internalized racism.
We want our practices and policies to come from an embodied and honest understanding of where we are — as individuals and as an organization — and where we are committed to going.
Wishing you wellness,
Rebecca Parekh, Sarrah Hallock and Kane Sarhan