What Equity Means to Me: Meymuna Hussein-Cattan

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Equity. It is a term heard a lot these days. And yet, if you ask 10 people what it means, you might get 10 different answers. As OCG prepared for our 2020 Summit, “Equity in Action: Stories of Innovation & Collaboration” we are pleased to share with you how different members of our community understand, and most importantly, put into practice, equity. Together, we can move Orange County forward, implementing and aligning with the 10 +1 next steps as recommended in the OC Equity Profile.

Our first blog post in this series comes from Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, Founder of Flavors from Afar & The Tiyya Foundation, Meymuna received her MA in Organizational Management from Antioch University & her BA from the University of California, Irvine in Social Sciences. Currently an active board member of Refugee Forum Los Angeles and the Southern California Children’s Museum. Meymuna also serves on the OCG 2020 Summit Committee and was the 2019 Emerging Leader Award Winner.

To discuss equity, we should acknowledge the errors of equality. I believe they are both valuable to advancing society but are quite different approaches.  To me, equity is a form of strategic planning to strengthen our society and economy.  Equality is being kind to everyone while pretending we all started with the same resources and therefore not different from one another.  Equality is about etiquette and safe communities.  Equity is a sophisticated civilization. 

I am a dedicated supporter of the OCG Summit because I appreciate these meaningful conversations.  Each year I look forward to learning about ways that I could contribute meaningfully. Orange County is revered as a beautiful suburban lifestyle with luxurious homes and neighborhoods. We also have members of Orange County who require temporary housing, food donations, or access to transportation before they can join the race to success. 

Take me for example, I was born in a refugee camp. Like many first-gen students, I was the first woman in my family to graduate from high school and first person in my family to obtain a master’s degree.  I always expect people to treat me fairly and as an equal because I’m human. However, I also acknowledge that we didn’t start our lives in America with wealth or generational land ownership. My birth experience was high risk and revolved around trauma. My parents took years to learn English, save money, and adapt to their new surroundings.  I also acknowledge that high rates of American families experience poverty and need support with education.  However, I might experience more obstacles based on the pronunciation of my name or the hue of my skin. I might have to work harder than those around me, based on my appearance.

As society we celebrate the journey at the finish line without asking where they had to begin.  As nonprofit leaders it’s our role to continue the discussion.  We should let people know that we assess our program participants and keep track of their milestones.  One client’s first apartment is worth the equal celebration we shower our friends who purchased their first beach house. 

It’s not about who is better, brighter, or more capable.  Equality is the foundation. The question we should pose instead is ‘where did you begin and how could we collectively experience ease’?  I’m successful today because of those who invested in me, not because I worked hard in a silo.  It takes community to create a sophisticated society.  If one member of Orange County is advancing because of our support, then we all advance.

It requires all of us to pay attention and OC Grantmakers are leading the way.

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