Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
With the social and economic issues that arose in 2020, Rincon, as a firm, took action to hear from our employees on what they were feeling and what changes they wanted to see. This led to companywide discussions that allowed employees to share their ideas and take part in very real and transparent conversations. From these conversations, we developed goals and planned a path forward for each, which include the following:
- Environmental Education
- Improved Recruiting Processes
- Training and Development
Through these goals, Rincon acknowledges and commits to the fact that this is not something we are going to be able to check off our list after achieving a few milestones. This is something that is intertwined and is going to take time and diligent effort to achieve real, long-term change. To drive our internal initiatives forward, we formed staff-driven working groups to devise a path to implement the proposed actions.
As we grow as individuals and as a firm, Rincon sees diversity, equity, and inclusion as one of the strongest levers to create long-lasting and meaningful opportunities for change. We aim to continuously push one another’s thinking and challenge problematic long-held beliefs and assumptions. We believe that our team will be the strongest and best positioned to realize our vision as we facilitate the following:
- Representation – with differences in race, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity, culture, age, gender expression, ability, economic status, education, credentials, and experience;
- A Voice – where all people are welcomed, heard, respected, understood, valued, connected, and able to do their best work; and
- Fairness – where people from all backgrounds are treated equitably and view our firm as a level playing field and platform from which to maximize their strengths and abilities.
As we seek to recruit and retain those who will learn with us, challenge us, and create with us, we realize this journey has a non-linear path that requires dedication, commitment, and perseverance. Holding each other accountable throughout our daily interactions to ensure alignment with our values and ideals will help us realize the full potential each person brings to our team and continue moving this important work forward.
While the unofficial start of summer for many in the United States began on Memorial Day weekend, our true summer solstice – slated for the 20th of this month – is preceded by an often overlooked, but an important date in our history: June 19th, 1865, colloquially known as “Juneteenth.” The past year has demonstrated a profound shift that has citizens of our nation speaking of terms like equity and inclusion, once buried like so many other important points in our history. While Juneteenth has been celebrated in Texas since 1865, the recent recognition of this date is proof that many of us are hungry to unearth and understand how our past affects the present, including the work we do here at Rincon every single day.
Although many believe that the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 marked the end of slavery, it did not as it was limited in many ways and applied only to states that had seceded from the United States. It wasn’t until two years later, and two months after the Civil War ended, that the Union army arrived in all of the states. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas, the last state to have slaves, and declared all slaves free.
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
Over the years Juneteenth celebrations had declined, but In 1968, the Poor People’s March propelled Juneteenth to become a national celebration. The Poor People’s March was an extension of the Civil Rights Movement as it demanded that the government formulate a plan to help redress the employment and housing problems of the poor throughout the United States. Because it was not going well and there was a lot of conflict within campaign members and leadership, and conflict with the federal government, they chose to end the campaign on a high note, by celebrating the 19th of June. As people went back to their homes, local cities began to celebrate Juneteenth, which eventually grew throughout the country.
In 1980, the state of Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth as a holiday. According to Juneteenth.com, today it is used to celebrate black freedom and achievements, encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures. This day is usually focused on education and self-improvement, but most importantly to celebrate all the sacrifices and contributions African Americans have made for and to our culture and history.
On June 15, 2021, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill to recognize Juneteenth as a Federal holiday.
How the projects we work on make a difference
However aware we are of this history, it is undeniable that we are all tied to the timeline of June 19, 1865, and the movements that followed. What is different now is how these moments in our history have become a part of our daily discourse, including the work we do as environmental consultants. The push for sustainable communities and cities is not simply a call for a greener world, but for a more equitable one that mitigates and hopefully reverses environmental injustices that have disproportionately affected people of color. As a group of engineers, scientists, and planners, we can commemorate this day by allowing the history of June 19th to drive our efforts for a more sustainable and equitable future.
In addition to the extraordinary impact the history of slavery has had on African Americans, the United States’ more recent history of discriminatory practices also places the African American community at a significant disadvantage. Discrimination has also led to injustices for other communities of color and indigenous communities. Rincon approaches our work with an acute awareness of these challenges and historic injustices, which is why we are involved in many projects which showcase our growing ability and understanding of how best to serve disadvantaged communities, elevate their voices during the project process, and adjust project outcomes to avoid disproportionate impacts to Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities.