On December 1st, several fellow Humanics scholars and I attended a board meeting for Central California Legal Services (CCLS). CCLS is a large benefit organization that offers no-cost legal services to individuals and communities who cannot afford representation. CCLS spans several counties here in the Central Valley from Tulare to Merced. It was interesting to view a board meeting between the various county factions through mixed media methods. Attendance was recorded in person, by phone and with each center participating via video feed.
During the meeting I observed two board members who were not attorneys, but rather acting as representatives of the community they serve. The board members work in the social services sector and were there representing the voices of marginalized and vulnerable populations in need of the services CCLS provides. In my limited experience, not many CBO boards are made up of representatives from the populations they serve. This is vitally important to the operation of a CBO. I believe more should incorporate community representatives into their boards because representation matters. It was nice to see the two parts, board members and community members, work together to advance the future agenda.
Additionally, as a Humanics scholar with a prior multi-family housing background and an interest in civil rights law, the opportunity to meet and speak to Patience Milrod was exciting. I am a fan of the fair housing work she has done here in the Central Valley, especially in fighting slumlords. Listening to her story about how she came to work for CCLS, then offer advice on how worthwhile it was for her to change her career path from a successful private practice to working in service to the community was priceless. Another point that stood out to me in my observation of the meeting is the sheer number of board members who are women, including the newly appointed interim President.
Outside of the semantics of board operations, I have to give a shout out to the female dominated board. The majority of the board (approximately 90% women) have a massive impact on the direction of the organization and the communities they serve. These women are smart, articulate, caring and passionate about the work they are doing, and it is incredibly encouraging for myself, as a woman going into a male-dominated field, to be able to witness this first-hand. Having the opportunity to see everyday, working women in the field making a difference is inspiring. Who needs to walk in the shoes of giants when I can walk alongside other women with shoes just like mine?