Several times throughout the year, Collin County Moms features a local non-profit organization that assists moms and/or families in need. We love the opportunity to spotlight how local families can help out through volunteering, donating time or money and more, right in our own community. We try to pick organizations that our contributors know and volunteer for personally, and are eager to share the needs of our friends and neighbors throughout Collin County.
Allow us to introduce you to Frisco’s newest nonprofit organization, EMBRACE Action: Empowering Moms to Battle Racism and Confront (In)Equality. We are inspired and proud to share in this mission.
1. Tell me the story of how Embrace Action was started.
My name is Kaanji Irby and I am currently the Executive Director of EMBRACE Action. EMBRACE was co-founded by Bridget Arredondo, Meaghan Dawson, and me. Our three sons have been friends and classmates since kindergarten at Purefoy Elementary (Frisco, TX), and they just graduated from fifth grade.
I am a practicing attorney and the mother of one son, Roman. I have always believed in and supported social justice causes, but never felt compelled to take action about racial injustice until the murder of George Floyd. Watching that video…hearing him call out for his mother…in that moment, I closed my eyes and saw my Black son’s face underneath the knee of a police officer…my two brothers’ faces…my uncles. And I knew that I needed to take ACTION.
So, I invited Meaghan and Bridget and their sons to march alongside my family at the peaceful protest in Frisco on June 1, 2020. During the march and beforehand, we talked about social justice issues. And Meaghan and Bridget shared with me their lack of understanding of some of my fears, and we acknowledged how our sons could be treated differently based solely on their skin color. It was heartbreaking, but necessary, to have that honest conversation.
We voiced our commitment to anti-racism. And, out of the desire to create sustained change in our community, we decided to create this non-profit to raise awareness about racism and provide a safe, nonjudgmental environment where individuals, specifically mothers, could gather resources and tools. We named the organization ‘EMBRACE’ because it symbolizes what we stand for: unity, inclusion, safety, sisterhood. And the irony isn’t lost on me that, in this time of social distancing, the need to embrace one another has never been stronger.
2. As a grassroots foundation, who specifically was the agent of change? What sparked this organization’s conception?
I would say that this organization—and becoming an anti-racist—is my calling. I am a woman of faith and during this time of national unrest, I did a lot of reading. I read a quote from the 13th-century spiritual poet, Rumi, at the very beginning of my anti-racism journey last month. He wrote, “Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” It was the desire to start something big and impactful that led to the creation of EMBRACE Action.
I recognize that my son, who is on the cusp of adolescence, cannot be safe in this society when there are some individuals who still see his skin color as a threat, who believe that he is not entitled to similar protection and opportunities because he is a Black man. And that frightens me to my core.
I think that many of us, as moms of school-aged kids, were raised to NOT talk about race and racism. And, I think that the INTENT was honorable. But, the impact has been a society that is afraid to speak about the challenged foundation of our nation. And, if we don’t address the issues, we can’t grow and move forward.
We need to talk about our unconscious biases that are so deep-rooted that they have actually become blind spots. And I know that we need to take our blinders off to see how racism and racial discrimination impact our children, so we can truly make strides towards racial equality.
What can we do to break this cycle? Educate ourselves, then educate our children. Maybe it seemed foolish to launch a non-profit in a week. And in the middle of a pandemic. But, every step of this journey thus far, we have encountered like-minded and like-hearted individuals who are also committed to change, and that’s what keeps us moving forward.
3. How can people in Collin County get involved with Embrace Action ?
To get involved, follow our social media channels and subscribe to our website. This is an organization in its infancy! We want to find out how to be the best resource for our communities AND how we can be of service. We are all on this journey together!
We ask that supporters sign our Embrace Action pledge, committing to adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards racism, and committing to education and action. And participate in some of the programs set forth below.
We are looking for financial donations to help us to create and implement more training programs and workshops. Also, if you, as a reader and supporter, belong to a company or organization whose mission aligns with ours, we would love to partner with you! We are officially a 501(c)(3) organization as of late July 2020.
4. What are some specifics on how your organization is empowering mothers to battle racism and confront inequality? Where would someone begin their journey?
This is a fantastic question. We recognize that all of us are at different stages in our journey; we are all growing in learning. Our organization is providing guided learning and small-group discussions.
Our organization has a few programs available for everyone on this journey. I encourage everyone to sign up for our 21-Day Embrace Action Plan. This plan will raise your awareness, and change your understanding of the way you think about race and justice. For anyone on this journey, we invite you to join.
To register, sign up on the website starting August 1. We will host a series of 30-minute Call to Action Orientations on Friday, August 7, and Sunday, August 9. The 21-day plan starts on Monday, August 10.
Some additional programs currently offered:
Embrace Reading – We have curated a list of books for kids of different ages/reading abilities. Kids are encouraged to read these books and submit a short video review!
Embrace Entertainment. In July, we hosted a virtual movie night, followed by a short, moderated discussion. In August, we are planning a Family Trivia Game Night.
Embrace Mindfulness. As activists, it is difficult to stay engaged and involved at times. EMBRACE believes that with a stable, nourishing foundation, and community of support, we can combat the weariness. So, our mindfulness program offers free, online yoga and strength classes, and daily tips to stay inspired and cultivate resilience.
As we grow, we will be offering more programming, including our EMBRACE Brotherhood program, aimed at strengthening bonds and friendships among our boys by bringing them together in a community aimed at teaching them how to protect, stick up for and stand by each other as they move into adolescence and maturity.
5. How have you had to adapt for COVID-19? How can families get involved who are practicing social distancing?
Right now, COVID has tabled some of our plans for in-person events, specifically, all of our workshops and panel-led discussions are now available online.
Once it is safe to do so, we will offer in-person learning modules and entertainment events (including a diversity fair/picnic, group volunteer activities, etc.)